Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009


Billy Joel at Moda Center: An Evening with the Piano Man / Photo gallery & review

By MIKE LEWIS // Billy Joel plays the hits at a sold-out Moda Center in Portland.

The music industry is something which is constantly changing. An artist who is popular today may be little more than a fading start in five or ten years and while some may find the ability to hang on to their fan base and perhaps even increase it in later years, that certainly isn’t true of all of them. Often their efforts to reinvigorate their careers with new albums is met with scorn from critics and fans alike who would much rather enjoy the music of their glory years rather than some paltry attempt to stay relevant. This however isn’t true of everyone.

Billy Joel first began his solo career in the early 70’s having been a member of bands such as Attila and The Hasseles prior but for many of us who grew up in the years of the dawning of a certain music channel, it was the 80’s which introduced many of us to his music. While his style certainly didn’t fit in with the barrage of New Wave bands that populated the channel in its early days there seemed to always be something about his music which still managed to lure in fans. However as the landscape of music began to change Billy Joel didn’t attempt to reinvent himself and in fact aside from a 2001 release which consisted of classical compositions, he hasn’t released a new album since 1993’s River of Dreams.

Not having new material however isn’t something which is holding Billy Joel back and in fact his career is very much alive and well. I suppose that is what one can expect when they already have a number of hit song to their credit and while the days of music television have vanished in favor of reality television, radio is still very much a home for his music. It’s the familiarity with his material which still draws in fans and concert goers. If you were under the impression that a Billy Joel tour would be something with sparse attendance you’d quickly discover your assumption to be vastly incorrect as a sold out show in Portland, OR would prove.

There are only a few musicians who have hit such a level of success and have a vast assortment of hits under their belt that there is no need for an opener and Billy Joel is among that elite group. What fans will find though is that he’s a musician who completely understands what he has available as far as music and while he could pick the setlist himself, that’s not completely the way this show works. At times during the course of the evening Joel would present the audience with an album, often giving a little trivia but ultimately mentioning two of the songs from that release. In most cases these were singles back when the album was released but as far as the audience, they actually get to choose which of the two they would prefer. This is all gauged based on the crowd response and provides the audience with an idyllic interactive experience that I don’t recall ever having experienced at another live event.

It isn’t simply his vast collection of hits that Joel brings to the stage but he comes more than prepared with wit and humor to coincide with his performance as well as those moments of cover songs. Some of these are brief while there are the occasions where he will play almost an entire song. While a few of these did feel rehearsed there are others which led me to wonder if it was merely an impromptu moment or if in fact it was legitimate but regardless, it all made for an enjoyable evening. You can of course expect songs such as “Allentown”, “Pressure” and “Uptown Girl” to all make it into the playlist but to top things off, Joel returned to the stage for an encore of nearly 30-minutes’ worth of additional songs which weren’t a part of the main show.

Initially I was a bit apprehensive of the show, not in terms of photography but instead what to expect overall as it’s not normally my style of music but very quickly I started to realize that virtually every song he played was something which I was in fact very familiar with. More than that however, seeing Billy Joel onstage one quickly realizes how versatile a performer he truly is. It’s his music, his quick wit, and his genuine appreciation for his fans and the music he has created over the years which all come together in a very solid live presentation which is difficult for anyone to deny is impressive and well-worth the price of admission. While dates on his tour have been sparse to say the least I believe that anyone in the Portland area who was fortunate enough to attend the sold out event would proclaim without reservation that a Billy Joel live event is an experience not soon forgotten.

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Arlene brewer

Very accurate and well stated, describing an incredible experience. Something parents can enjoy with their now adult kids who were raised with the tunes of Billy Joel.

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