Joel concert gets fans feeling all right

MUSIC REVIEW

October 19, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

LANDOVER -- They say that the biggest problem with being a rock-and-roll piano player is that the piano is not exactly a portable instrument. Unlike guitarists or singers, who can roam the stage at will, piano men (and women) are pretty much anchored behind their keyboard. Because who could possibly move a piano around?

Billy Joel can.

In fact, the set-up he brought to the U.S. Air Arena last night not only allowed him to spin his piano around like an hors d'oeuvre on a Lazy Susan, it let him transport his baby grand from the front of the stage to the back. After all, Joel is hardly the kind of guy who'd be content just to sit and play.

Maybe that's why so few of his fans were willing just to sit and listen, preferring instead to stand and cheer for the better part of his two-hours-plus show.

Joel's peripatetic energy wasn't the only thing that got the audience going, of course. True, they loved the way he worked the stage during "Only the Good Die Young," and a few even grabbed at his pants cuffs when he went into a few Elvis moves during "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me."

But it was the songs that ultimately carried the day -- hits like "Big Shot," "Innocent Man" and "Allentown."

And even though Joel is ostensibly on tour to promote his latest album, "River of Dreams," that didn't keep him from devoting the lion's share of his set to the oldies in his songbook.

Joel made the most of them, too. Apart from "We Didn't Start the Fire," which seemed oddly plodding despite the singer's spitfire delivery, he and his band had no trouble adding sparkle to the old favorites so that the back catalog shone just as bright as new stuff like "No Man's Land."

"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," for example, was rendered with all its richness intact, moving easily from course to course through its melodic feast. Likewise, "You May Be Right" was so packed full of punchy enthusiasm that it was hard for the fans to keep from singing along.

Maybe that's why they so obviously enjoyed the show-closing rendition of "The Piano Man." Because it wasn't simply a case of fan sentiment at work -- everyone clearly was in the mood for a melody, and Joel definitely had them feeling all right.

Billy Joel will perform in the U.S. Air Arena again this evening. The sold-out show will start promptly at 8 p.m.

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