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Concert Reviews:
Billy Joel doesn't forget the Motor City at the Palace
 

By Gary Graff
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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AUBURN HILLS – He may be a designated “franchise” at New York’s Madison Square Garden, but Billy Joel was in a decidedly Dee-troit state of mind on Saturday night, Feb. 15, at The Palace.

Making his first solo headline appearance at the arena since 2007, the Piano Man tapped into the Motown and Motor City songbooks during his nearly two hours on stage – noting that “a lot of good music came from here.” Joel and his eight-piece band slipped a bit of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” in between songs early in the show and not long after played a fuller version of “Dancing in the Streets,” with fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Martha Reeves in attendance, fur coat and all.

And in the midst of a late-set rendition of “The River of Dreams,” Joel and company broke into a portion of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.”

Those selections, of course, were accents to a setlist full of favorites from his four decades of recording, spanning all the way back to his 1971 debut album “Cold Spring Harbor” for “Everybody Loves You Now.” Playing a piano that rotated directions throughout the night – and liberally applying throat spray between songs -- Joel opened with the high-energy coupling of “Movin’ Out” and “Pressure” before digging into the deeper recesses of his catalog for “The Entertainer,” “Vienna,” “Zanzibar” and “A Room of Our Own,” the latter a John Lennon-inspired track from “The Nylon Curtain” album that appropriately preceded a cover of the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” as a tribute to the 50th anniversary of their arrival in the U.S.

Joel back-loaded Saturday’s show with plenty of his A-list hits. Saxophonist Mark Rivera took the spotlight during “New York State of Mind” and “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” while Joel tossed trademark keyboard licks into both of those and his signature “Piano Man.” The encore, meanwhile, was full-on rock, with a microphone-twirling Joel leaning into the front row during “Uptown Girl” and It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” then getting back on the piano bench for “Big Shot,” “You May Be Right” and a night-ending “Only the Good Die Young.”

This was Joel’s 14th sold-out appearance at The Palace, and he was certainly filling the area’s biggest buildings well before the arena opened in 1988. Saturday’s performance showed why that’s been the case – and why it will be the case the next time through, too.

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