Monday, May 2, 2011

Last Play At Shea

In the summer of 2008, Billy Joel had the honor of being the last artist to play Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets, which previously hosted concerts by The Who, The Clash, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, and of course The Beatles. The concert was a celebration of his musical roots as much as it was an emotional sendoff. Compiled over two nights, the setlist covers well his entire catalog. The sound of the band is robust and dynamic, audience noise not intrusive, but my only complaint is the guitars are mixed way too low. As for the video quality, it's near perfect (get blu-ray); good editing, though just a bit over the top with the close-up crowd shots. But it's nice there's plenty of interaction between the band members. There were cameras planted everywhere, and sometimes you get to see glimpses of the stage from the high balconies; pretty cool. Also those ariel shots from outside Shea are damn spectacular.
Billy's piano playing was in top-form, though I can't say that for his singing, but hey, that's rock & roll, right? Angry Young Man, perfect opener. At times he looked really in awe of the amazing sea of fans all the way up to the rafters. I enjoyed most of the performances, though my favorite are the not-so-obvious ones; Summer Highland Falls with that lovely piano intro, Zanzibar, the orchestra-driven The Ballad Of Billy The Kid. As for the hits; I dig the New Yorker's Miami 2017, Keeping The Faith, Captain Jack (one of his lyrically best tunes), We Didn't Start The Fire, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Only The Good Die Young (somehow it's more meaningful to me with all the Catholic references). Though I wished they included the other songs like Big Shot, A Matter Of Trust and An Innocent Man. One of the best moments comes during the Piano Man intro, where Billy suddenly launches into Take Me Out To The Ballgame; in which any concert at a ballpark wouldn't be complete without.

Then there were the guest appearances; homeboy Tony Bennett assisted Billy on New York State Of Mind, which seemed to elevate the whole performance into a new level of high. John Mayer soloing on This Is The Time was kinda lackluster I thought. Obviously the big one was Paul McCartney taking the reins on I Saw Her Standing There during the encore. I loved the crowd reaction as everyone went nuts when he walked onstage (watching this brought me back to that night at Hyde Park). Ironically the concert ends with Let It Be; it looked like Billy was more than happy to let Sir Paul finish it off. The bonus guest performances are equally awesome; Roger Daltrey doing his signature stuttering on My Generation, Steve Tyler on a surprisingly good rendition of Walk This Way, and my favorite, John Mellencamp (whom Billy also inducted into the Rock Hall) on Pink Houses. Here's hoping he goes back on tour with Elton John soon.