Not unlike the Beatles' arrival in the U.S. 50 years ago, Billy Joel's 1987 visit to the Soviet Union for six concerts in Moscow and Leningrad shook a nation. Nearly every minute of the trip was documented on film -- some shown the same year via HBO -- and this weekend Showtime debuts a new film, "Billy Joel: A Matter of Trust -- The Bridge to Russia," documenting the visit.
The 75-minute special features concert and backstage footage along with candid scenes of Joel, his then-wife Christie Brinkley and infant daughter Alexa Ray visiting with Soviet citizens, from circus performers in Moscow's Gorky Park to a woman who accosts him in the streets of Leningrad for corrupting the country's youth. Joel and his band members sit for new interviews, along with tour personnel -- including insightful translator Oleg Smirnoff -- and Soviet musicians who talk about the impact of Joel's visit.
"I remember the Russians being the most incredible audience," says saxophonist Mark Rivera, the only member of the Soviet tour band still playing with Joel. "They soaked up the entire event. It was the first time a band brought the entire production -- lights, sound, stage, the whole nine yards. The people were amazing."
"Billy Joel: A Matter of Trust" debuts at 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, on Showtime; a new box set of recordings from the trip is due out in May. Joel, meanwhile, performs on Feb. 15 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Some tickets remain. Cal 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.