Last Saturday evening, legendary singer, songwriter, pianist and bicoastal hero Billy Joel brought his memorable discography and unrivaled stage presence to a packed Dodger Stadium. The nearly three-hour set spanned the performer’s four plus decade career and, while Joel may be pushing seventy, his performance was filled with an energy and enthusiasm that brought tens of thousands of fans to their feet. Bros singing “Uptown Girl”. Older couples wearing “I love BJ” shirts. Young hipsters. Dads with daughters. They all flocked to downtown Los Angeles to see the man himself tickle the ivories and lull them into a sweet, piano-filled reverie.

All photos by John Bernstein

Flanked by his longtime backing band, Joel began with a simple, “1, 2, 3, 4!” and the high-energy “Moving Out” and “My Life”. A camera was suspended above Joel so fans could see his piano prowess up close on long, narrow screens hung in the same arrangement as the instrument’s keys.

Joel seemed to be in equal awe of the gravitas of his surroundings as the audience as he mused that his first performances in Los Angeles were at the intimate Troubadour. He admitted to seeing Elton John perform at the stadium and riffed a bit of “Your Song” before the ballad “Vienna” (voted on by audience applause as Joel “couldn’t possibly do all his songs” that evening).

Every member of Joel’s pitch-perfect, expert-filled band had a time to shine, whether it was trumpet player Carl Fischer in  “Zanzibar” or keyboardist Dave Rosenthal in “The Entertainer”, a song Joel explained was written while living on Mulholland Drive when he was “wrong and cynical” that reminded him “what an asshole I used to be”. Later, he explained the factually inaccuracies of “The Ballad of Billy the Kid”, also written during his time in Los Angeles in response to his desire to “write a movie soundtrack when no one was asking me to write them.”

The audience voted for “For The Longest Time”, to which Joel responded “Duh!” It was an impressive feat to tackle one of the most well-known a’cappella songs in pop rock history in a stadium, but the five-person backing vocal group led by Joel blew fans away.

Joel enlisted the help of surprise guest stars, beginning with P!nk joining him onstage for a jazzy rendition of the classic “New York State of Mind” followed by a performance of her song “Try”. Axl Rose also came to electrify the stage with his rocking “Highway To Hell” and later joined Joel for “Big Shot”.

But it was Joel’s hits that kept the audience moving in the unseasonably chilly air. Fans danced with each other during “Always A Woman”, tried to keep up with the lyrics of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and swayed along with “Piano Man”, one of the evening’s most warmly received songs. Fans illuminated the stadium with cell phone lights as Joel let the audience finish the final, familiar chorus a’cappella.

The encore began with hits “Uptown Girl”, “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” and “Only The Good Die Young”. The twenty-five song set culminated with “You May Be Right” and the audience sang along to, “I might be as crazy as you say, if I’m crazy then it’s true that it’s all because of you.” While it might seem crazy Joel is packing stadiums, his timeless music, unwavering talent and clear passion for performing ensures fans will pack the house to see him, crazy as they were at the beginning of his career to sing and dance along.

For more information on Billy Joel:
Official site