By Steve Svetovich
Bottle of brew. Friendships renew.
It was the sixth time the Piano Man entertained South Philadelphia and multi generations of fans at Citizens Bank Park.
Billy Joel, who turned 70 earlier last month, rocked Philadelphia this past May 24 to a filled stadium as he performed 26 songs, including five during a stunning encore.
“It was just a tremendous show,” said Dunmore’s Bill Genello who attended the concert. “He was very entertaining and his voice is still great.”
The two and one-half hour concert included a guest appearance from Jason Bonham, son of late Led Zeppelin drummer Jon Bonham. The two Zeppelin songs performed with Bonham on drums totally surprised the energetic crowd who were more than pleased.
Billy Joel, looking dapper at 70 and still with a strong voice, started the show by stating, “It’s good to be back in Philadelphia. If it wasn’t for you guys, I wouldn’t be anywhere. It’s your fault.”
He went on to playfully poke fun at New Jersey natives’ trademark accents before starting the show with his classic, “A Matter of Trust.” That was followed by “Pressure” and then “Vienna.” “The Entertainer” and “Don’t Ask Me Why” were then performed to the delight of the crowd.
“She’s Always a Woman” and “Movin’ Out” were next before a moving surprise appearance by a large military contingent dressed in uniform. About 100 soldiers and sailors took the stage with Joel and his band singing “Goodnight Saigon.”
The military personnel added their hearty voices to the war’s laments “and we will all go down together,” fitting for the Memorial Day weekend. The crowd, many with their hands over their heart, stood proud. It was a moving moment. A huge ovation for the military men followed.
That was followed by the 1982 classic, “Allentown.” The crowd was dancing and singing to the song that spoke of the unemployment of new graduates in mining towns, specifically Allentown, during that era.
Joel added a brilliant ode to his “New York State of Mind.” He sang it with a new gravitas as The Statue of Liberty was displayed on side video screens.
Guitarist/singer Mike DelGuidice provided his voice during ‘Nessun Dorma” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”
Jason Bonham took the stage in the middle of the show as DelGuidice seized the reins with a Robert Plant like howl during renditions of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and “Good Times, Bad Times.”
Bonham followed with a drum solo.
All of a sudden there was a Zeppelin concert in the makings.
The crowd went wild with the surprise Zeppelin songs.
“This is the first time we tried this,” said Joel.
The Piano Man went on to perform such classics as “Only the Good Die Young” and “River of Dreams.”
“My Life” re energized the Philadelphia crowd.
Shortly before the encore performance, the rock icon quietly sat at his piano, took a deep breath and performed his trademark song, “Piano Man,” with all of his fans singing along and waving their arms. It may have been the show’s finest moment.
A five-song encore started with “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which included images of a lit fire and photos on the screen behind the stage of the numerous celebrities and politicians Joel mentions in the song.
The other encore songs included “Uptown Girl” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”
The second last encore song was “Big Shot” followed by yet another appearance by Bonham on the drums with Joel singing “You May be Right” interspersed with verses of Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” A dramatic end to a very crowd pleasing performance.