Review of 'Billy Joel'

In 1988 I had tickets for “Face to Face” in the old Wembley Stadium, to feature Billy Joel and Elton John. Sadly, Billy Joel had to pull out so I had never seen him in concert (on the plus side Elton, by himself, put on a three hour concert). Nicely, Joel made reference to his aborted gig with Elton in this amazing concert to a pretty much sell-out crowd. Joel commented that his last concert in the UK was at Hammersmith and his first was on Drury Lane for 50 people. There were considerably more people at this concert…

Our Seats - Very close

We paid very close to top price for our tickets (£80 for row K in section A5 - the first section in front the stage - we could see him sweat!) but I have to admit it was worth it and even £80 is not much in today's world for big concerts. I heard from others to decided to save some money that tickets at the back and to the extreme left and right of the stage (up) that said the sound was either non-existent or badly distorted, and those in the left and right seats had no view of the performance and no screens they could watch - Such are the joys of a large venue like Wembley.

The crowd

The simple stage layout featured Joel's grand piano front and centre that was set on a revolving platter that he used on occasion to, presumably, change his view of the crowd. Above the stage were a set of rectangular strips of video screens hanging at different positions. Of course, to the left and right of the stage, were puzzle-shaped monitors that provided those a ways back a good view of the action though the monitors often were not used, instead with the spotlight focusing on Joel. The smoke machines worked overtime throughout the concert and the light show was particularly amazing - Lighting up the massive crowd to great effect.

Light show

Amazing lights...

Joel is looking a bit older, and a bit larger but he still was able to deliver a great set of old favourites. He had to occasionally use some vocal spray and in the suit he never even loosened he was quite hot throughout as he mopped up his sweat - Despite the cool evening following the rain of the day. His voice, however, never seemed to be strained and he gave pretty much everything for the crowd. Amusingly he had a fly swatter on the piano than he would use to swipe at non-existent bugs.

Amazing artist

Starting at 8:10 (only 10 minutes late, a record for the UK!), the evening's songs were plucked from his many back issues and often he would leave it to the crowd to decide between two old favourites. The set started with “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” which nicely warmed up the crowd but it was when he would play covers as a bit of a diversion before going into his song, such as “My Life” which started with “Rule Britannia” and followed by “Ode to Joy”, or “The Longest Time” (audience vote over “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”) that began with, of all things, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” warmup. A brief impersonation of Elton John singing “Candle in the Wind” accompanied anecdotes from his life which he sprinkled throughout the performance but not so much that it was too talky - He was here to perform but at the same time he seemed relaxed and able to talk with us.


Speaking of covers, his version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” (Joe Cocker tribute) was great and very much appreciated by the audience. “Highway to Hell” (AC/DC) mixed things up as it was sung by veteran roadie “Chainsaw”, a large gentlemen (typical roadie), but with an amazing voice - Here Joel took a supporting role on electric guitar and did a bit of a walkabout in front of the stage.


“Zanzibar” (audience vote over “Big Man On Mulberry Street”) sounded amazing in the cavern of the stadium. The controversial “Sometimes a Fantasy” was well received by the crowd as well. Later in the evening “Nessun dorma” (Giacomo Puccini cover) was sung amazingly by “Mike DelGuidice” - Showcasing a tremendous diversity that was in the show.

"New York State of Mind"

After finishing, of course, with “Piano Man” at 10:00 pm, Joel left the stage, but, of course, 10 minutes came back out for a four song encore including “Uptown Girl”, “It's Still Rock and Roll to Me”, “Only the Good Die Young”, and “You May Be Right” (with “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin snippet). He was off the stage just before the 10:30 curfew set for the concert…

In the spotlight

I can't say I am a particular great fan of Billy Joel but I always remember enjoying his music when I heard it. To hear it live and in such an amazing venue was really special. I really enjoyed the concert though I do realize many people did not due to the sound and visual problems but Joel gave his all for the crowd. He put on a fantastic show both vocally, musically and visually.

Truly a great of rock.

Me and the man...

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2016-09-10

Wembley Stadium

Location: London (England)

Address: London HA9 0WS ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Wembley Park NRLOGO Wembley Stadium

Telephone: +44 (0) 844 980 8001


ASCII���User comments A fantastic, modern stadium replacing the twin towers of the old Wembley with an amazing arch above the stadium. The facilities are amazing with incredibly good management of large crowds with massive pedestrianised walkways to/from the local train and tube stations. Food inside is not cheap but also not as expensive as you might think. The highest sections of the stadium offer horrible views and it should be noted that the roof does not cover the entire stadium so the floor is exposed to the elements. Acoustics for concerts can be good but with a stadium of this size seats further from the stage are subject to audio delays and decreased sound quality.