Old Trafford Football Ground – Manchester
Saturday 16th June 2018
Billy Joel needs no introduction, as one of the worlds best selling recording artists he’s sold over 150 million albums world-wide, had 33 US self-penned hits including 3 chart toppers, he’s been nominated for 23 Grammy’s and won 6, and is the 6th biggest selling artist, and 3rd best selling solo artist in the US. His Greatest Hits Vol 1 & 2 has sold over 11 and a half million copies which is 23x platinum.
Nerdy facts and figures aside, he’s an incredibly talented singer-songwriter, with an enviable back catalogue of material which instantly grabs you even if you’re not already familiar with it.
On an interview for American television that I found on youtube, the interviewer asked him why he hasn’t released an album since 1993 and cited that Elton John says he should release more albums, in typical Billy Joel style he responds “Elton should release less albums!”. Whilst the remark was probably meant tongue-in-cheek, it’s a good point! For me, Elton has a very checkered recording career with some incredible classics and a few best forgotten. Whilst I personally much prefer Billy Joel’s material prior to “Uptown Girl” I can’t say he’s released a bad album.
This was his only UK date on the current tour so Old Trafford Football Ground was full with fans from all over the country, and there was a real sense of occasion as you got close to the ground and saw signs for the concert and lots of people of all ages wearing Billy Joel t-shirts.
Manchester of course has a reputation for rain, and sure enough, not long after I got off the train there was torrential rain. With Old Trafford being an open-top stadium, we were worried that it could end up a rather soggy affair. Thankfully the skies cleared and it was a nice, dry warm evening.
Sadly the show has hit the headlines because some ticket holders couldn’t actually see the stage nor even the video screens, causing Billy himself to pass comment. I’m not sure how this oversight could have happened, because although Old Trafford hadn’t staged concerts for about a decade, The Rolling Stones played last week and I didn’t hear of any problems. But then having orgainsed a few pub gigs over the years I can only imagine how much organisation it takes to stage a show like this, and unfortunately mistakes are sometimes made.
He took to the stage and began with “My Life” to ecstatic cheers from the audience, followed by Pressure and The Entertainer, which were all superb. His voice is still on top form and his band were tight, it was impossible to fault this performance.
His banter between songs is almost as good as the music, “Some of you are probably wondering what happened to me? I’m 69. I used to like that number!”.
As I only had a photo pass, I had to leave the stadium after the 3 songs, but those 3 songs were enough to make me decide to buy a ticket the next time he plays in the UK.
From what I could hear outside the stadium and talking to people who were there, it seems there wasn’t a dull moment, with nearly 2.5 hrs of non-stop entertainment.
His set list is here, whilst I can’t completely vouch for it’s accuracy, it looks correct from what I can remember. He did a surprising number of covers, which seem to have gone down really well.
As people began to leave the stadium, their faces said it all – it was a joyous evening in the presence of one of the worlds greatest singer-songwriters. If you get the chance to go and see him, seating issues aside, you won’t be disappointed.
Words + Pictures: John W. King