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Concert Review: Dodger Stadium, Axl Rose, and Pink Put Billy Joel in an L.A. State of Mind

Variety logo Variety 5/14/2017 Andrew Wallenstein

With the body of work Billy Joel assembled from the 1970s through the 1990s, he can induce considerable nostalgia among his fans when he cranks out his greatest hits in concert. But it seemed like Joel himself was sucked down memory lane Saturday by the Dodger Stadium venue where he was performing.

Though this master craftsman of pop is better known as a New York native, Joel spent three formative years living in Los Angeles in the early 1970s, just before he rose to fame. And from the opening moments of his show, he made it clear this baseball park — where he’s never previously performed — was bringing him back to that part of his life.

“So this is where the Dodgers ended up?” he wondered aloud to the admiring crowd, who were treated to an aural tour that made stops at just about every album Joel ever made.

He went on to recall what it was like growing up in New York. Rooting for the then-Brooklyn Dodgers only to watch them head west, sending him a on search for another team for which to root (he claimed to have been both a Yankees and Mets fan at different times).

Joel also reminisced about playing the Troubadour in 1973 and being in Dodger Stadium to see Elton John, who he noted played in a Donald Duck costume. That memory launched him into one of a handful of cover songs he performed, “Your Song.” He got better results with The Eagles’ “Take It Easy,” which was wedged as an interlude in the middle of his own hit, “River of Dreams.”

In addition, Joel got a nice boost from a few famous friends, including Pink, who helped out on “New York State of Mind,” and Axl Rose, who provided vocals for AC/DC cover song “Highway to Hell” and Joel’s own “Big Shot.”

Burlier and balder than he was in his prime years, Joel is nevertheless barely diminished by age; his voice has held up very well at 68 years old. The only sign that his stamina flagged came with a false start on “Allentown,” which he copped to later with trademark candor. “That was an authentic rock-and-roll fuck-up,” he admitted.

Joel didn’t deviate much from the set list he’s been sticking to in recent months. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song”) was the opener. “You May Be Right” capped a five-song encore.

As many old favorites Joel trotted out, he could have doubled his set list and still not have covered all the songs for which he’ll be most remembered. It’s the kind of realization that can make you wish for another tour from him not too far off in the future.

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