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Concert Reviews:
Billy Joel Gives Detroit Its Props At Palace Show
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK



AUBURN HILLS -- Billy Joel definitely knew where he was on Friday night.

The Piano Man played his audience a song -- 24 of them, to be exact -- and more than a few of them came from Detroit, a city he saluted for the "great music" it's produced, and which has surely made an imprint on Joel's own output.

Playing his first solo show at the Palace since November of 1998 (he stopped there with Elton John in 2003), Joel touched on Motown, introducing his "Don't As Me Why" with a bit of Marvin Gaye's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" and letting multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero sing Martha & the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street." During "River of Dreams" he broke into snippets of Mitch Ryder's "C.C. Rider"/"Jenny Take a Ride" medley and Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock & Roll," and he used other Seger favorites to tease into other songs -- "Still the Same" before "Only the Good Die Young," "Night Moves" into "Piano Man."

And he offered up a version of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," sung by longtime road crew member Chainsaw, to "atone for (his) sins" of once driving European cars. Now, he told the sell-out Palace crowd of 20,000-plus, "I got me a Chrysler. Damn good car!"

It's that sense of place that has always distinguished Joel as a concert act and has always separated him from even his superstar peers. He comes to a town -- particularly Detroit, which he regards highly enough to dry-shave in his dressing room before the show -- armed with enough local knowledge to put some stamp on the show, hard proof that he's not merely repeating some other set from a previous tour stop.

He knows how to make a night feel special, and he certainly did that in the two hours and 10 minutes he spent onstage Friday at the Palace.

Indigenous touches aside, Joel's own music was still the main star of the night as he surveyed his entire 23-recording career, dipping back to 1971's "Cold Spring Harbor" for "Everybody Loves You Now" and delivering the title track from 1994's "River of Dreams," his last album of new material. He didn't play "All My Life," a new song he released earlier this year, but Joel and his seven-piece band offered up an array of his hits as well less-celebrated tracks such as "The Entertainer," "Zanzibar," "Captain Jack" and "The Entertainer."

Typically self-deprecating -- the 57-year-old, a far cry from the leather-jacketed punk of the '70s and early `80s, introduced himself as "Billy's dad" -- Joel was in good form, discreetly lowering the keys or slowing the tempos of some songs. Despite a noticeable limp from a hernia, he still commanded the wide-open stage, whether seated at a piano that revolved to give all sides of the house a good view or prowling the perimeter during "Big Shot" and "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me." And epics such as "Prelude/Angry Young Man," "New York State of Mind" and "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" still sounded as powerful and dynamic as they did three decades ago.

Joel finished with his traditional salutation -- "Don't take any s*** from anybody." No worries; the Palace crowd certainly knew it hadn't received any from him Friday night.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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