REVIEW: Billy Joel brought his A-game for his fifth year at Fenway Park

Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Billy Joel will not be sharing new music any time soon.  Renowned for his library of hits in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, he stuck with the chart toppers and some lesser known singles at the Fenway Park field on Friday, August 10 as part of the Plainridge Park Casino Fenway Concert series.

Billy Joel Fenway Park

Photo credit to IheartMedia

‘I haven’t had a hit in 25 years,’ he muses, ‘but I have also not released an album in 25 years.’  Opening fittingly and dramatically with the theme song from The Natural, a beloved 1984 sports film starring Robert Redford, Billy Joel took the Fenway Park stage for his fifth year.  Click here to see where Billy Joel will perform next.

Showcasing his biggest hits along with a few of his lesser known ones, Billy Joel brought his A-game.  Kicking off shortly after eight in the evening as fans were still filing into the park, he arrived behind his piano for his straight-talking hit Big Shot, a song that was said to have been inspired by a dinner he had with Mick and Bianca Jagger.  Under multicolored lights and an infectious beat, from the start Billy Joel proved his ceaseless energy at 69 years old.

On a cloudy, but rainless night in Fenway, Joel referred to Boston as the birthplace of freedom where he wrote the song, My Life.  He also mentioned the Red Sox, though he’s an avid NY Mets fan, before a stirring rendition of NY State of Mind, which featured shots of New York City’s famous landmarks.  He even playfully sang Boston’s More than a Feeling before jokingly “forgetting the words.”

Billy Joel Fenway

Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

Sharply dressed in a dark suit and tie, Billy Joel spoke with humor and frankness, sharing personal details behind his music, his voice matured into a deeper, grittier growl with all the same power behind it.  He treated the enthusiastic full house to a spectrum of his famous and lesser known songs as he reflected, ‘I worked just as hard on the lesser known songs as the hits.’  Some of those lesser known songs included Summer, Highland Falls, Zanzibar, The Downeaster Alexa, and Vienna, a sweet, quiet tune from his album The Stranger and was also featured on the 13 Going on 30 film with Jennifer Garner.

Accompanied by a robust rock, jazz, and horn-infused big band, Joel performed upbeat number, Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song), a hit song that inspired a 2002 Tony award-winning Broadway musical of the same name.  The musical highlighted a number of Billy Joel’s greatest hits.  Dedicating a song to his three year-old daughter, Joel performed Don’t Ask Me Why as well as many of his signature hits including a resonant Only the Good Die Young, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, a colorful, extended version of River of Dreams, and It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.

The award-winning singer-songwriter kept the crowd on their feet with surprise guests from two vastly different genres.  Peter Wolf, lead singer of the J.Geils Band, a group Billy Joel opened for early in his career.  Wolf performed the band’s 80s hit, Centerfold before calling Joel one of the nicest in the business.  Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, who was to perform with the band at Fenway the following night, also joined Joel.  Accompanied by powerful guitar, Elliott’s deep, throaty vocals delivered their audacious hit, Pour Some Sugar on Me.  As welcome as their appearances were, it couldn’t beat their return to the stage later to sing with Joel for You May Be Right.

Joel also had his share of quiet moments as he silenced the crowd with the emotional, heartfelt number, And So it Goes and She’s Always a Woman.  Sitting behind the baby grand piano most of the evening with a brief stint humming on the harmonica for Piano Man before taking to the guitar during an epic, four-song encore, Billy Joel still has a seasoned passion for the stage and left with hardly a voice, delivering short of a three hour performance.

WGBH’s ‘A Celtic Sojourn,’ tributes to Billy Joel & Broadway part of SSC’s ‘Evenings Under the Stars’ concert series

Each summer for over the past twenty years, South Shore Conservatory has been making peerless, sparkling moonlit nights spectacular with a wide variety of live concert performances each Saturday night in July.  South Shore Conservatory’s Evenings Under the Stars made its sold-out concert return on July 8 and will continue its themed music performances through July 29 at the Jane Carr Amphitheater in Hingham, Massachusetts.  The Evening Under the Stars Festival Orchestra traditionally kicked off the season on July 8 with acclaimed conductor Nicholas Palmer as South Shore Conservatory presented Out of this World with Mozart!  Click here for ticket information and further details.

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Nicholas Palmer conducting the EUS Festival Orchestra, Photo Courtesy of Denise Maccaferri

Led by conductor Nicholas Palmer, Evening Under the Stars explored the renowned works of Mozart, featuring a special performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K.622 with South Shore Conservatory clarinet faculty member and guest soloist Peter Bianca.  Prior to the performance, audience members enjoyed a pre-concert reception which is purchased separately.  It includes special sneak peek performances, appetizers, parking pass, and a chance to mingle with the artists.  Nicholas Palmer led the opening night pre-concert talk.  A pre-concert reception is available at every Evenings Under the Stars concert.  Click here for more information.

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Guest soloist and SSC Faculty member, Peter Bianca, Courtesy of South Shore Conservatory

On July 15, Evenings Under the Stars proudly welcomes back WGBH’s A Celtic Sojourn with Brian O’Donovan featuring an exciting lineup of traditional and contemporary Celtic performances.  Brian O’Donovan will deliver a talk at the pre-concert reception.  Catch Brian O’Donovan every Saturday afternoon on 89.7 WGBH on online at 3 p.m.  Follow A Celtic Sojourn on Facebook.

With indelible hits such as Always a Woman, Uptown Girl, Movin’ Out, Piano Man among many others, Billy Joel has made an indelible mark in music in his over 50 year career.  Jon Abrams, singer, pianist, and Broadway star of Billy Joel’s hit musical, Movin’ Out, will pay tribute to Billy Joel for one night only, taking the stage with original Billy Joel guitarist David Brown and six Boston-based musicians on July 22.  Learn how the Billy Joel tribute band came to be during the evening pre-concert reception.

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Billy Joel Tribute – Jon Abrams Photo courtesy of Jon Abrams

On July 29, Evenings Under the Stars closes its summer series with a showcase of classic Broadway tunes with Beguiled Again:  The Songs of Rodgers and Hart.  Featuring former and present South Shore Conservatory faculty members including Beth Canterbury, Beth MacLeod Largent, Sarah Troxler, Devon Morin, and Holly Jennings as well as a festive chorus, enjoy live performances of My Funny Valentine, My Romance, The Lady is a Tramp, and more.

All concerts take place rain or shine at Jane Carr Amphitheater, One Conservatory Drive in Hingham, Massachusetts. See the South Shore Conservatory’s summer spotlight concert series at affordable prices. Click here for more information on South Shore Conservatory or call 1-781-749-7565, ext. 22.  Follow South Shore Conservatory on Facebook and Twitter.