Photos by David Rubene
I walked into last night’s show thinking it would be just another show. Granted, it was Billy Joel and I was a bit more excited than I usually am, but I just figured I’d get into Target Field, find my seat, and have my mind blown by The Piano Man himself. What I didn’t realize was that my ticket didn’t have a seat listed on it. It only said “Press Box”. When I finally got through security, I went to the first Target Field employee I could find and asked where I was supposed to go. They gave me one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen and proceeded to lead me up to the club level. I thanked him for helping me out and disappeared into the “press box”.
After getting my coveted wristband, I continued walking into the elite area and was greeted with the smell of food and money. Okay, maybe I couldn’t smell the money, but I could see it. I instantly felt a bit out of place. Surrounded by people my parent’s age with wine glasses in hand and plates on plates of some of the most delicious looking food I had ever seen, I started following the smell of the food and found myself in a room full of sushi, chex mix, drinks, salads… you name it, they had it. I watched people pile food on their plates, grab a drink at the bar and leave the room. I was shocked and quickly disappointed that I had already eaten before coming to the show. I grabbed a drink and kept on wandering through the area until I found an empty section. I took a seat as the opening act, Gavin DeGraw, took the stage and I honestly just wanted to cry. I’ve worked thousands of shows and have seen press boxes like this in the movies but never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I’d find myself in one of these places. Well, here I was. Literally living the dream,
The opening act was Gavin DeGraw’s and, although his set was short, he packed a punch with what he had. The 40 year old powered through old and new songs with a couple hits strewn throughout that I surprisingly recognized. His energy was electric as it should be when opening for such a legend. Although he has a voice talented enough to stand alone in a singer/songwriter setting, Gavin was joined by a backing band that gave him a bit of a rock n roll feel that is almost necessary when playing in front of tens of thousands of people. With six full length albums out, Gavin had more than enough material to fill a couple of hours worth of music but, with only a half hour on stage, I feel like he did a great job of selecting what to play. I had heard a couple of his hit singles before on the radio and hearing those live was great but I almost liked his new song “She Sets The City On Fire”, that he ended with, the most. The crowd was polite through his set but you could feel the anticipation in the air and most were more than ready for Billy Joel to take the stage and, honestly, I was one of those people.
After the stage was turned over and the lights went down, the crowd erupted when they realized that, under the mask of darkness, Billy Joel had already taken his seat at the piano and wasted no time jumping into his first song- “Movin’ Out”. Billy Joel’s 21 one song set, that was followed by a five song encore, was full of hits that I recognized and songs that I had never heard before in my life. Sure, I’m a bit of a fair-weathered fan, but as I have said in the past, you never turn down a chance to see a legend live and this was a great example of that.
Throughout the extensive set, Billy Joel would give the audience options on what song they wanted to hear next. He would list off two songs and, whatever song got the biggest cheer would be next on the set list. This added a very personable feeling to such a huge legend and I absolutely adored it. Beyond letting the crowd pick the set list, there were so many other things that Billy Joel did that added and human element to his set. He sat at the piano with a bright orange fly swatter in hand and was seen swatting at the flies surrounding him multiple times. He even caught a few on the piano that he then swept off the piano and onto the floor. When the flies became over powering, he pleaded with security and the crowd for some bug spray. After judging the name of the brand of bug spray he got, he proceeded to dance around the piano as he generously sprayed the bug spray everywhere. Here was a legend spraying bug spray while dancing around a piano with a smile on his face. I couldn’t help but laugh along with the rest of the crowd. After the bug situation was handled, the show went on.
I should have figured that there would be a surprise during this big show. I mean, it’s Billy Joel and he always seems to have a couple tricks up his sleeve. I definitely did not think said surprise would be a visit from Axl Rose of Guns N Roses for a cover of AC/DC’s hit “Highway To Hell”. As soon as the guest was announced, the crowd exploded into applause and screams. Axl took the stage with Billy Joel in tow and played a perfect cover of the song. Although it seemed like a bit of a weird mash-up, it worked and I was definitely grinning ear to ear knowing that I had just seen something that many people would absolutely die to see (all the while drinking my beer and eating my delectable desserts).
After more songs, another appearance by Axl for “Big Shot” and “You May Be Right” finishing off the set with a repeat appearance from Gavin DeGraw, the show was over and I found myself reluctant to leave along with the rest of the lingering crowd. Nobody ever wants this great of a concert to end and I would have given anything to be able to stay where I was and watch more but all good things must come to an end.
As I sat in my own little space last night, I realized I was watching a truly amazing concert from a bonafide legend. To say “this was an incredible performance” would be an understatement, as my cheeks are still super sore from smiling so much. What a freaking experience.