Artist: Billy Joel
Date: March 7, 2006
Venue: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA
I was very impressionable musically when I was a child and it has continued even today. My father would play Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sam Butera, Louis Prima, Bobby Daren, Dean Martin and countless other performers of that era all the time when I was little. But there was one artist who stood out the most at that very impressionable age, opening up endless doors for me musically, playing the biggest role in my life.
Billy Joel has been an important musician throughout my life. When I was five, his “River of Dreams” album was released and the cassette tape containing that album grabbed my very young ears. We also had a cassette tape of the third volume of Joel’s greatest hits, containing songs such as “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “A Matter of Trust” and “Baby Grand” (the latest featuring the late great Ray Charles).
Within the next two years, I would listen to those two cassette tapes practically every night as I would fall asleep, with that tradition of listening to music as I sleep still holding strong today. In first grade, I took up piano thanks to wanting to play just like Joel. I still do today, playing all of his songs and singing them on my free time to keep me sane from the stress and bull shit I deal with on a daily basis.
That’s why March 7, 2006 is a date I will never forget. It was the first time I saw the Piano Man live and it was in the home venue of one of my favorite sports teams.
The show blew me away. Joel played his nightly classics such as “River of Dreams,” “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” and “Only the Good Die Young.” But there were other songs that he played that blew me away.
The first time I actually laid ears on “Stiletto” and “Zanzibar” (I know, shocking) was that night. Carl Fischer’s trumpet solo in “Zanzibar” is one of the highlights of any Joel concert. The song itself features baseball references to Reds and Phillies great Pete Rose, the New York Yankees and taking signs to steal second base from a woman.
One of the surprises during the show at the time for me (didn’t really think he performed this song live) was “An Innocent Man.” And though it was played in a lower key like 90% of the songs performed that night, Joel’s vocals on it blew me away.
He also shocked me with bringing out one of his roadies from Chester, PA (“where the fuck is Chester?” as he joked)to sing on a “very religious song.” Then guitarist Tommy Byrnes ripped up the opening riff to the AC/DC classic “Highway to Hell” and Joel and his band had the place jumping.
Then again, Joel has always been a tremendous singer and performer and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I would have walked away from that show absolutely left speechless.
The night ended with “Piano Man,” just like any Joel concert should end. It’s his signature song and calling card to the crowd.
Lastly, before walking off the stage, Joel signed off with another famous line I take to heart.
“Good night and don’t take any shit from anybody!”