“I’m not actually Billy Joel. I’m Billy’s father,” the veteran musician quipped last Saturday as he opened his solo set in Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, where he shared the evening’s limelight with Sir Elton John.
The Face2Face tour made its Ohio debut to a sold-out arena of adoring fans, including me, many of whom could relate to the sentiment. They, too, see themselves becoming their parents and find that hard to believe because in their minds they still are young and cool. However, they are reminded otherwise by their children — and when they see the AARP cards in their wallets.
The legends did not disappoint the crowd, tickling the ivories in a high-energy 3 1⁄2-hour extravaganza of their familiar, timeless hits that featured unique arrangements. Billy Joel’s River of Dreams included Hang on Sloopy during the musical interlude and Elton John often moved seemlessly into familiar refrains.
Maybe the only empty seat in the house was to my left; my son was in the seat to my right. (A Michigan fan, he cringed at the “OH-IO” injections in Hang on Sloopy.)
The trip was an awesome Mother’s Day gift from him to say the least. Friends and family have joked that he set the bar really high. I agree. I displayed my two vinyl Elton John albums, the set list, my ticket and the pricy souvenir program at the Memorial Day bash we hosted.
I have been an Elton John fan since he came on the scene in the United States in the early 1970s as I came of age. I was sure my favorite Your Song would be the last one of the show, but they kicked open the evening with it. I thought they could make an encore performance of it, but there was none.
The two men chuckled as Billy sang “There’s an old man sitting next to me” in the opening stanza of 1973’s Piano Man, which closed out the show, a fitting bow on the package. Maybe they did know what they were doing.
We both were in awe of the talent. Our seats just to the left side of the stage in the main concourse club level provided a great vantage point for the evening, and because our aisle seats were in the first row of the level, we never had to get out of anyone’s way. The display screen on the videographer’s camera just below us provided an interesting connection as we sometimes would see on the video screen above the floor what he had been filming.
We also had an unobstructed view of a young major Billy Joel fan in the section adjacent to the walkway below us who stood and danced, acted out and sang nearly every word of every one of his songs while her male companion stroked the back of her leg and her inner thigh. We consider that show an unadvertised bonus.
They played four songs together, 11 each solo, and then nine together. All but two of the last nine were backed by both incredible bands. The final two selections (including Candle in the Wind) were just the men and their pianos. A fitting way to end an incredible evening.
Face to face. Piano to piano. Heart to heart.
It was, as they say, priceless.
Miriam Baier is the Assistant Editor of the Examiner. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org