South Florida was once again blessed with the Piano Man himself ringing in the New Year at the BB&T Center, rather than his usual place at the center of Madison Square Garden. For the second year in a row Billy Joel carried us into a new year with a rousing two and a half hour set beginning at 10:30 pm and stretching into just after 1am in 2017. The opener for the night was “A Thousand Years” pianist Christina Perri.
Joel entered the stage to a fully sold out arena screaming out for him and after sitting down at his piano kicked into “Angry Young Man.” Billy Joel's voice is untouched by time, and his performance remains powerful, yet playful. Much to his usual demeanor, Joel joked with the audience and popped on some stylish oversized 2017 glasses. That was it for extra flair, not that he needs any extra, besides the piano revolving on a turntable for the entire 360 degrees audience to enjoy. His conversational manner with audiences is the same now in 20,000 seat arenas as it was in the small piano bars he sings about in “Piano Man.” After playing a quip of Elton John's “Your Song” Joel joked in reference of John's line “I don't have much money” with a solid “yeah right!”
The anticipation of the build up to midnight was palpable, and while the crowd was on their feet singing and dancing, you could tell the countdown was on in the arena. Joel kept with his usual groove of letting the audience choose certain tracks in the setlist – giving them two options to choose from. The New Years crowd at BB&T handpicked “Vienna” (over “Just the Way You Are”), “Zanzibar” (over “Big Man on Mulberry Street”), and “The Longest Time” (over “This is the Time”). While Joel is known for tossing in snippet's of other musician's songs to couple with his own – once he kicked into the recently deceased George Michael's “Faith” the entire crowd was on their feet cheering for the band.
As the minutes to midnight counted down Joel led into “Souvenir” and the screens above brought us to a live New York broadcast to watch the ball drop. The crowd was practically shaking the arena as each person in the room shouted out from ten to one. When the countdown finished, Joel beautifully covered “Auld Lang Syne” as tons of confetti rained down and people hugged and cheered to the new year.
The second half of the performance felt more upbeat as the music changed tempo and the new year's spirits were definitely kicking in. Naturally, the first Billy Joel song sung into 2017 was the aptly named “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).” This half of the performance felt tighter, as the band locked down to pound out the biggest hits in Joel's collection. The encore end to the set included “We Didn't Start the Fire” and “It's Still Rock and Roll to Me” getting Joel from behind his piano, and got him rocking out on stage with his guitar. Of course the last song, before his explosive encore, was his famed “Piano Man” and as the song goes
“It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
Cause he knows that it's me they've been coming to see
To forgot about life for a while”
To 2017! Happy New Year everyone!
1. Prelude/Angry Young Man 2. My Life (followed by Elton John “Your Song” snippet) 3. The Entertainer 4. Vienna 5. Zanzibar 6. The Longest Time (followed by “Duke of Earl” snippet) 7. Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) 8. New York State of Mind 9. Allentown 10. Until the Night (followed by “You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'” snippet) 11. Don't Ask Me Why (followed by “Faith” snippet)
12. Keeping the Faith 13. Sometimes A Fantasy 14. With a Little Help From My Friends 15. She's Always a Woman (followed by “Kashmir” snippet) 16. Souvenir 17. Auld Lang Syne 18. Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) 19. The River of Dreams (followed by “Take It Easy” snippet) 20. Nessun dorma 21. Scenes From an Italian Restaurant 22. Piano Man
Encore We Didn't Start the Fire Uptown Girl It's Still Rock and Roll to Me Big Shot You May Be Right (followed by “Rock and Roll” snippet