Seattle Concert Review: Billy Joel Does Things His Way

billy joel seattle concert
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Billy Joel is 75 years old, and this may be one of his last extensive tours. At this point, he’s going to do whatever he wants on stage. That was both a good and a bad thing on Friday night at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.

Not content to simply present a greatest hits concert, Joel threw several album tracks and minor hits into his set, along with a handful of unexpected covers.

At first, the oddities were a nice touch, a way to keep the performance unpredictable. Just three songs into the show, Joel presented short renditions of “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Purple Haze,” in honor of Seattle legend Jimi Hendrix. Later, he did his best Rolling Stones impression, attempting to strut around the stage during an abbreviated cover of “Start Me Up.” “I told you, I ain’t no Mick Jagger,” he said afterward.

The piano man also played tracks from his catalogue that weren’t issued as singles, like “Vienna” and “Zanzibar.” The latter was a highlight, with the horn section creating a nice jazzy vibe.

Joel spent quite a bit of time chatting with the crowd, telling stories about the time he threw out the first pitch at a Mariners game, reciting the full list of the mistakes he made in the lyrics of “The Ballad of Billy the Kid,” and telling jokes that mostly didn’t land.

Joel sat behind his trademark instrument for most of the show. But at least his piano rotated, giving fans on both sides the chance to see his face.

“The piano goes that way, and the piano goes that way,” he explained, pointing to both sides of the stadium. “And that’s pretty much it for special effects.”

He didn’t need special effects on crowd pleasers like the energetic opener “My Life,” the bouncy “Allentown,” which featured a searing solo from guitarist Tommy Byrnes, and “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” which again placed the horns center stage. Joel’s new song, “Turn the Lights Back On,” received a surprisingly strong reception, with fans lighting up the ballpark with their phones and swaying to the mid-tempo track.

Joel’s voice still sounds good. He can’t quite hit all the notes, as he warned the crowd before the vocally-challenging “An Innocent Man,” but the tone and power of his voice haven’t changed all that much from his heyday.

The problem came when Joel started veering from the typical format a little too much. He brought out opening act Jason Bonham to perform Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Then, for some reason, Joel let his background singer and guitarist, Mike DelGuidice, perform the opera classic “Nessun Dorma.” These performances were solid, but also completely unnecessary. Fans surely would have preferred to hear some of Joel’s own music during these slots instead.

Joel closed his set with a dramatic version of “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” followed by a “Piano Man” that pleased the crowd, even if it was somewhat ho-hum — understandable, considering that he’s performed it nearly 1000 times.

The encore was relentless. Joel ripped through five of his biggest hits in 20 minutes: “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Uptown Girl,” “It’s Still Rock N Roll to Me,” “Big Shot,” and “You May Be Right,” with almost no break in between.

That fiery ending begged the question: What if the entire concert had been that intense and purposeful, without the weird covers and the extended banter and the long silence between songs?

Joel has the collection of hits to pull it off. He could have squeezed at least another 5-6 smashes into the show, if he’d wanted to. Perhaps there would’ve been room for “She’s Got a Way,” “Don’t Ask Me Why,” “Pressure,” “A Matter of Trust,” “The Longest Time,” and “I Go to Extremes.”

But hey, he’s earned the right to do what he wants to do. If cosplaying as Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix is the kind of fun Billy needs in order to keep him out on the road entertaining fans, that’s a small price for listeners to pay.

Setlist: Billy Joel at T-Mobile Park May 25, 2024

1 My Life
2 Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
3 The Wind Cries Mary
4 Purple Haze
5 Vienna
6 Zanzibar
7 Start Me Up
8 An Innocent Man
9 The Downeaster Alexa
10 The Ballad of Billy the Kid
11 Turn the Lights Back On
12 Allentown
13 The Entertainer
14 New York State of Mind
15 Keeping the Faith
16 Whole Lotta Love
17 Sometimes a Fantasy
18 Only the Good Die Young
19 The River of Dreams
20 Nessun Dorma
21 Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
22 Piano Man
Encore:
23 We Didn’t Start the Fire
24 Uptown Girl
25 It’s Still Rock N Roll to Me
26 Big Shot
27 You May Be Right

For more Seattle concert reviews, see our recent review of Justin Timberlake’s arena tour.

Billy Joel also has a song on our list of the best whistling songs in history!

Last Updated on May 25, 2024

4 thoughts on “Seattle Concert Review: Billy Joel Does Things His Way”

  1. It seems obvious to me why he had others take the fore a bit: he needed a rest and he wants to boost them while he can. I really enjoyed the opera piece. You are right, though, that the main part of the concert dragged…and concerts are not supposed to drag.

    Reply
  2. I enjoyed the whole show…chatting and all!! I thought it pretty cool he gave other talent the opportunity to shine!

    Reply
  3. My first Billy Joel concert and I loved it! Being at our T Mobile Park made it even better, except for the cold weather. And I was presently surprised to see Mark Rivera! I didn’t know he was back on tour. He’s one of the best sax musicians out there. I hope I see Billy Joel live again but if not I’ll have great memories to look back on.

    Reply

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