'The Piano Man' performs in Pittsburgh

Mellon Arena was in a Pittsburgh state of mind as Billy Joel wowed his audience in concert Friday night. There was no opening act, so the show began immediately with Joel at center stage, seated at his piano. Dressed simply in a spiffy black suit, Joel resembled an investment banker from his hometown of New York City.

While his hair may have been shorter than his last tour in 1993, his sense of humor was clearly intact. Joel jokingly saluted the audience in the seats in the back row and directly to the back of him, commenting on how much he needed the money from the sold-out ticket sales. When greeting the audience, he introduced himself as Howard Joel, Billy’s father. He assured the crowd that Billy still had his hair and joked of his 1993 announcement that he would no longer be going on tour. The last time Joel performed, he jammed with Elton John in New York’s Yankee Stadium. Joel said that this tour is finally his last.

Joel began the show with his early and lesser-known hits including “Zanzibar” and “You’re My Home,” exciting the older members of the audience. One woman remarked that he had played “Zanzibar” at her first concert, back in 1978.

Quickly though, Joel made the switch to his more well-known songs, which brought the entire audience alive with dancing and singing. Joel entertained the crowd with such favorites as “My Life,” “The Entertainer,” “Allentown,” and “She’s Always a Woman.”

His rendition of “New York State of Mind” revealed the New Yorkers in the audience, who began emphatically screaming and singing along.
While playing all of his hits, Joel allowed his band members a chance to shine. Each of the key members, with origins as close as Long Island and as far away as Adelaide, Australia, were featured in the songs, mainly on saxophone.

About halfway through the concert, Joel announced what he called a “religious song,” and introduced his guitar technician of 30 years, Chainsaw. Joel told the audience that Chainsaw had auditioned for American Idol but had not made it past the first round. Chainsaw rocked the stage as he sang lead vocals in a cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” Chainsaw put all of his energy into the song and led almost everyone in the audience to stand up in their seats.

Chainsaw served as the perfect lead-in for the next portion of the show, where Joel played his most well-known and energetic songs. He even got up from his seated piano position, dancing while playing the guitar and even twirling around the microphone stand.

Joel played the classics such as “You May Be Right,” “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” and “Only The Good Die Young.” The crowd joined in on Joel’s energy.

At one point near the end of the show, Joel left the stage as if he was about to end the concert. But, with the ultimate classic “Piano Man” still not played, it was clear that Joel was coming back on stage. The audience cheered for him to come back and Joel quickly reappeared.

Joel ended the night with “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “Piano Man,” letting the audience to sing the choruses for both.

Throughout all of his songs, Joel’s vocal sounded in no way like those of a 58-year-old man, and his piano abilities were likewise supreme. Although from faraway seats Joel was only a small blob, his voice was loud and clear. His fingers, blown up on the television screens hung below the ceilings of Mellon Arena, ran speedily across the piano as if it were second nature.

When Joel’s concert ended, the audience shouted for an encore, but unfortunately, the Piano Man had left the Pittsburgh stage for the last time, or so he said.

Joel will perform the last concert in his farewell tour at Shea Stadium in New York City on July 18.

The concert will be a farewell for Shea Stadium as well. Joel will be the last artist to perform in the stadium before it closes its doors for good, at the end of the 2008 New York Mets baseball season.