As I fully expected, this performance did not disappoint. This was my fourth time seeing both Billy Joel and Elton John in concert and the third time in the Face-2-Face format. The first two concerts I ever saw were Billy Joel (November 1998 @ Schottenstein Center (OSU campus), Columbus, Ohio) and Elton John (June 1999 (on my birthday) @ EJ Nutter Center (WSU campus), Dayton, Ohio) in two awesome solo performances. I have seen many shows since that time in the 10+ years that followed, but those two shows are still very memorable and among the best.
My only two F2F shows before last night (Tuesday, 3/10) were both in 2003, during the last edition of the duo's touring show. The first was in Columbus (Nationwide Arena, May 2003), and the second was in Detroit (The Palace of Auburn Hills, June 2003). Both shows were awesome, although I thought the second show (in Detroit, as the tour finale) might have been the single-best show I've ever seen. They put on tour-de-force performances knowing that the US Tour was coming to a close ... and the Detroit crowd was rocking.
Since I don't want to dwell only on those past shows, I did want to provide some context for this Cincinnati event. Yes, folks, a F2F show is more than just a "concert" ... it is truly an EVENT. I can honestly say that I have never seen Elton or Billy looking more physically fit, active, or energetic than I did last night. WOW ... simply amazing piano work, great vocals, and a passion for performance that most singers and musicians today take for granted. Without further adieu, here is the night’s setlist:
[7:30 PM Ticket Start Time … 7:42 PM Actual Start]
EJ & BJ on stage together (Elton stage right and Billy stage left) facing each other on baby grand pianos … no band members on stage to begin
1. YOUR SONG – As expected, a great show opening … EJ gets a HUGE crowd response when he starts his line of “If was a sculptor …” after BJ sings the opening line.
2. JUST THE WAY YOU ARE – No real surprise based on prior F2F shows I’ve seen … but a shame that “Honesty” was ditched on this night (based on the other show reviews I saw). BJ got his HUGE crowd response on the second line as well … for singing, “Don’t go trying some new fashion …”
3. DON’T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME – EJ’s band makes it’s first appearance … rising from sub-stage level onto the upper platform.
4. MY LIFE – BJ’s band arises as EJ’s band lowers below … thunderous applause on the rising and dropping band members from the crowd (for whatever reason … I guess the floor was impressed). Among my favorite BJ songs … EJ doesn’t do it justice (sorry Elton).
[BJ exits … time for EJ to go solo]
5. FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND / LOVE LIES BLEEDING – EJ says “hello” to Cincinnati and opens playing an album track we’re fully expecting (from past F2F shows)
6. SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT (FOR FIGHTING) – Fun, fun song in concert … crowd gets very energetic
7. BURN DOWN THE MISSION – Just as everyone is lifted to his/her feet, most take their bio break during this song … or the next one
8. MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER – A classic album track from the classic album of the same name … with all of the piano play and band “features”, it could be shortened to make room for another of his classics instead (just my two cents)
9. TINY DANCER – One of my favorite EJ songs (still plays very well)
10. GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD – Simply a classic (and expected)
11. DANIEL – Ditto that last remark … a lot of “sing-a-long” in this part of the set
12. ROCKET MAN – Who doesn’t know Elton’s first mega-hit? EVERYONE knows this song … and, if they don’t, why were they here?
13. LEVON – A classic hit … going way over the head of the younger part of the crowd but a fan favorite for classic Elton fans
14. I’M STILL STANDING – Gets the crowd back up and dancing
15. CROCODILE ROCK – Never lets them sit down … a fun song from beginning to end … and who doesn’t like the crowd interaction on the “na … na na na na na …” parts of the song?!? A fun way to end the solo set…
[EJ exits and BJ reenters to perform his solo set]
16. ANGRY YOUNG MAN – The absolute best piano song to begin the set with a high-level energy unmatched by most of the BJ catalog … I love this song in concert
17. MOVIN’ OUT (ANTHONY’S SONG) – Thanks to the Broadway hit, this song has become all the more recognized and played … not that it wasn’t already a hit back in the day
18. ALLENTOWN – A very appropriate song in today’s economic woes … even if it was targeted at Pennsylvania of the late 1970s and early 1980s … switch “steel mills” for “auto factories” and you have the same scenario
19. ZANZIBAR – Expected only because I saw the earlier concert reviews … not my favorite BJ album track by any stretch … whatever happened to “Summer Highland Falls” or “Miami 2017” in the rotation? I saw SHF at the Detroit show (if memory serves) … and I was blown away by it in concert. Even “Miami” would be a great fit in the same vein as “Allentown” … but I understand that this is Billy’s “bio break” song in the set [and “Miami 2017” might just be too energetic]
20. SHE’S ALWAYS A WOMAN – I remember the time period when he wouldn’t play this song … now I kind of miss “New York State of Mind” or the aforementioned “Summer Highland Falls” … but the crowd generally loves this song
21. SCENES FROM AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT – He dedicated this absolute classic gem to his “Aunt Mert” in Dayton, who he said was watching in the audience. Funny enough, I remember him dedicating a song to her in Columbus in 2003 as well … I just don’t remember if it was this one.
22. RIVER OF DREAMS – One of the first BJ songs that simply hooked me for life … I even had it played (by request) during my senior graduation slide show (since it was released in 1993 during my senior year).
22a. HANG ON SLOOPY (interlude) – I would be remiss to leave out the page taken from the “Bruce Springsteen playbook” … The Boss played “Sloopy” in Columbus when I saw him there in 1999 (along with the great “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” since it was December and a rescheduled event as well)
23. WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE – One of my favorites … even if it seems dated now that it’s a shocking 20-years-old this year … tracking Billy’s first 40 years of life from 1949 to 1989 … I still learned a lot of history thanks to this song.
24. IT’S STILL ROCK AND ROLL TO ME – His shadow boxing and fun on stage jumping, dancing, and hopping about is about as classic Billy as it gets … I LOVE IT!
25. ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG – I almost wish he’d play the “reggae” version for the fun of it … but maybe I’m one of the few who likes the unreleased reggae track (ala Bob Marley) versus the original release (that almost everybody knows)
[BJ ends his solo set as EJ reemerges to join him onstage for the joint finale with ALL band members together along with the duo]
26. I GUESS THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT THE BLUES – A classic Elton pick … one of personal favorites of EJ’s catalog … I guess I just relate to the lyrics (thanks Bernie Taupin) that hit home for me.
27. UPTOWN GIRL – It doesn’t get much bigger for Billy as a hit … probably the closest thing to the “career-defining” track in his catalog (featuring ex-wife Christie Brinkley in the video, of course) … it just doesn’t fit his grittier, older voice these days … I would personally love to hear “Tell Her About It”, “The Longest Time”, or “Keeping The Faith” from that same album if given the choice (over “Uptown Girl”) … I’m sure the EJ-only fans wouldn’t know them nearly as well (if at all)
28. B*TCH IS BACK – Wow, Elton was as energetic as I’ve ever seen him on stage (not counting the long-ago days when he younger and thinner) … twice climbing on top of his piano and once jumping down to the delight of his fans
29. YOU MAY BE RIGHT – Among my favorite Billy songs of all-time … still a classic and joy to watch
30. BENNIE AND THE JETS – What a great mano-a-mano piano performance for both EJ and BJ
31. BIRTHDAY (Beatles cover) – Seemingly an “odd” cover to choose … although EJ’s birthday is coming soon (3/25), BJ’s birthday isn’t until May (5/9) … whatever happened to Beatles’ covers like “Hard Day’s Night” … maybe even an Elvis cover (like Billy has done in “All Shook Up”) … since they did the following song, how about a Beach Boys cover (ala “Good Vibrations”, “Don’t Worry Baby”, or the like)
32. BACK IN THE USSR (Beatles cover) – I can understand this one (to a degree) … but I don’t think it fits well at this point in the show … WAY TOO MANY other fine choices from their own respective catalogs (no need to rehash earlier thoughts)
[Band members exit to leave the stage looking identical to how the show began … just Billy and Elton on stage face-to-face at the pianos … and we know what’s coming]
33. CANDLE IN THE WIND – Final “encore” (of sorts, since they never left the stage) … no real surprise to be played for Elton, especially with just the facing pianos
34. PIANO MAN – The ONLY way to end a F2F show … when this gets played, we all know (unfortunately) that the show is almost over … although they gave us a moment of doubt (when the house lights took a few minutes to come up)
[Show over @ ~11 PM just shy of three-and-a-half (3.5) hours … and AWESOME AGAIN, as usual, with almost no breaks in the action]
The "stripped down" setlist without remarks ...
1. YOUR SONG
2. JUST THE WAY YOU ARE
3. DON’T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME
4. MY LIFE
5. FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND / LOVE LIES BLEEDING
6. SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT (FOR FIGHTING)
7. BURN DOWN THE MISSION
8. MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER
9. TINY DANCER
10. GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD
12. ROCKET MAN
14. I’M STILL STANDING
15. CROCODILE ROCK
16. ANGRY YOUNG MAN
17. MOVIN’ OUT (ANTHONY’S SONG)
20. SHE’S ALWAYS A WOMAN
21. SCENES FROM AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT
22. RIVER OF DREAMS
22a. HANG ON SLOOPY (interlude)
23. WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE
24. IT’S STILL ROCK AND ROLL TO ME
25. ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG
26. I GUESS THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT THE BLUES
27. UPTOWN GIRL
28. B*TCH IS BACK
29. YOU MAY BE RIGHT
30. BENNIE AND THE JETS
31. BIRTHDAY (Beatles cover)
32. BACK IN THE USSR (Beatles cover)
33. CANDLE IN THE WIND
34. PIANO MAN
Sorry for the length ... for anyone waiting for an upcoming show, HAVE FUN!