Live Review: Elton John, Billy Joel

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Elton John and Billy Joel

Time Warner Cable Arena

March 7, 2009

The Deal: Piano-playing legends team up again for first tour since 2003, played packed "Cable Box."

The Good: The duo walked out as their pianos rose up from the floor, took bows to the standing ovation and immediately jumped into a 20-minute, four-song duet of "Your Song," "Honesty," "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and "My Life" as Elton John and Billy Joel traded verses and shared choruses. It got to the point where I had to pause and think, "Which one actually sang the original of this?" It was obvious from the start why these two have had so many fans and why this combo-tour has been so successful over the years.

Elton was first up for a solo set which lasted roughly an hour and 15 minutes. He started with the mostly instrumental "Funeral for Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" before jumping up and dancing around during, "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)." Wearing a black coat with tails that had colorful music notes on the front and an elaborate scene on the back with the words, "Music Magic" on the back, John seemed to enjoy every moment. He told the crowd, "You're in for a real treat tonight. It's nonstop action." After playing, "Tiny Dancer," he told the crowd, "I'm gonna do three songs you know, if you feel like singing along with us...because it's that kind of night." And sing along they did, as John extended the ending of "Rocket Man." He also took a moment to acknowledge Nigel Olsson who has been performing with John since 1969. John took time to sign an autograph or two during the night and had the crowd ready to go before his set ended with plenty of sing-along during, "Crocodile Rock."

Joel came out and immediately began hammering away on the keyboard for the beginning of "Angry Young Man." He thanked the people "all the way up there" in the upper deck and jokingly thanking them for driving from Greensboro. He also looked at those seated behind him and said, "Right now, you're just getting a lot of head." It wasn't for long though as Joel's piano spun around during a few songs giving the crowd plenty of angles to view him. Joel highlighted a number of early songs, calling out the years on 1977's "Moving Out" and 1978's more obscure, jazzy "Zanzibar." A giant LED screen above the stage flashed images during "We Didn't Start the Fire," though they were hard to decipher from seats near the stage. For "It's Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me," Joel was out front with only a microphone as he whipped the stand around, twirled it and threw it into the air.

Neither performer acted his age during the course of the night, and the crowd soaked up every minute of the nearly three-and-a-half hour show. The two joined forces again, backed by all 13 band members, for a seven-song encore. "Bennie and the Jets" got a decent sing-along, but it was the final two numbers, showcased by only the two legends, that got the crowd to its loudest. "Candle in the Wind" was followed by a crowd-swaying sing-along of "Piano Man." They soaked up every moment of applause, shook a few hands and exited to separate ends of the stage.

The Bad: The complaint I've heard most is from those who have seen the tour in the past and were disappointed that it was mostly the same songs as last time. "Zanzibar" clearly wasn't Joel's best song of the night. While diehard fans surely enjoyed it, it didn't help that Joel asked the audience not to go to the bathroom after noting, "This song wasn't a hit...it wasn't even a single." Not that it was bad — it was nice to see Joel playing guitar — but the lyrics of "We Didn't Start the Fire" sounded a bit dated at times. I guess you could say the same about "Back in the USSR." I'm sure there were youngsters in the crowd thinking, "What's the USSR?"

If people are willing to pay $8.50 for a beer, why close down the concessions so early?

The Verdict: The face value of tickets peaked at $180, but I can't imagine people saying they didn't get their money's worth.

Setlist

Your Song

Honesty

Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me

My Life

Elton's set

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding

Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)

Burn Down the Mission

Madman Across the Water

Tiny Dancer

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Daniel

Rocket Man

Levon

I'm Still Standing

Crocodile Rock

Joel's set

Angry Young Man

Moving Out

Allentown

Zanzibar

Don't Ask Me Why

She's Always a Woman

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

In the Middle of the Night

We Didn't Start the Fire

Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me

Only the Good Die Young

Encore

Bitch Is Back

You May Be Right

Bennie and the Jets

Birthday

Back in the USSR

Candle in the Wind

Piano Man

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