Billy Joel rings in 2018 with South Florida


2017 was quite the year, filled with highs and lows. Natural disasters, political upsets on both sides, a great year in the cinema, the rise of Photopassed, and much more. That being said, it was only appropriate that it was capped off with what has become a welcome tradition here in South Florida, a New Years Eve concert by the legendary Billy Joel. For the third year in a row, Joel performed a two and a half hour set ringing in the new year with a sold out house at The BB&T Center (and we mean sold out, with the entire arena open for seating, including the seats behind the stage as the piano turns in a 360 degree rotation). Because no matter what kind of year you had, starting off the new one with The Piano Man himself, is always the right move.

Without an empty seat in the house, the atmosphere was perfect for what would turn out to be a very memorable evening for all in attendance. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness opened the night with a high energy perfect performance. Kicking off the set with “Fire Escape,” McMahon clearly had fans in attendance as they jumped from their seats singing and dancing along. The setlist featured three Jack's Mannequin songs including “Dark Blue” “Swim” and “La La Lie.” The openers for the NYE shows tend to play heavily to the pianist side and McMahon is no exception. He is talented upon measture when it comes to the piano, making him a brilliant opener for Joel. Weaving in and out of the crowd, leading a stadium in a full circle version of the Wave, and exhibiting a sincere since of appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to open for the music icon, McMahon's performance was fantastic as always (despite the lack of giant rubber ducks).

The lights dimmed and the crowd roared...they all knew it was time for the man himself to arrive. Starting the set with a flawless rendition of location appropriate “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway),” a two plus hour exhibit of hit after hit had begun. Always engaging, Billy Joel made sure to make it known that he was happy to be back in the region, Peppering in witty banter, jokes, and several snippets of cover songs throughout the night, there was not a single moment of down time, and not a single concert goer left sitting. As always, Joel let the audience choose between songs they wanted to hear. And it's not some rigged choice, you can clearly hear the winner of these options and the crowd loves feeling involved. Audience choices included “She's Got A Way” and “The Longest Time.”

Some of my favorite moments at a Billy Joel concert is experiencing his quirky and random covers of popular songs. We got the usual snippet of Elton John's “Your Song” but also “Bennie and the Jets.” Joel's banter towards John is always playfully hilarious and you can tell the artists must hold a lot of respect for each other. Other covers of the night included “Purple Haze,” ”Layla,” and “Honky Tonk Women.”

As the countdown to midnight closed in, Joel started us off counting down from twenty, and at the stroke of midnight as the crowd erupted into cheers, and enough confetti to cover the entire floor rained down, Joel began his beautiful rendition of “Auld Lane Syne.” From midnight on the rest of the set had people standing in the aisles, dancing, and cheering until the end. Closing out the main set with “Piano Man” as the song nears to a close the lights came on in the arena, and the music silenced as the crowd belted out the last “sing us a song, you're the Piano Man / sing us a song tonight / well we're all in the mood for a melody / and you got us feeling alright.” If you've never been to a Billy Joel concert, this is the pinnacle moment that you will remember.

The encore of the set had Joel rise from his piano, and remind the crowd that he certainly knows how to use a guitar and can still rock like the best of the them. It's no wonder why he sells out night after night wherever he plays. If you have the means to do so, do yourself a favor and go see this show whenever possible. Whether you're a diehard or a casual, everyone leaves a Billy Joel concert a fan.

Setlist:

1. Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)

2. Pressure

3. She's Got A Way (preceded by snippet of Elton John's "Your Song")

4. This is the Time

5. The Longest Time (preceded by snippet of "This Night")

6. Zanzibar

7. Vienna (preceded by snippet of Elton John's "Bennie & The Jets")

8. Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) (preceded by snippet of Derek and the Dominos "Layla")

9. Stop in Nevada

10. Purple Haze (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)

11. New York State of Mind

12. Don't Ask Me Why

13. All About Soul

14. Allentown

15. She's Always A Woman

16. Honky Tonk Women (The Rolling Stones cover)

Countdown to midnight

17. Auld Lane Syne (Robert Burns cover)

18. My Life (with "Ode to Joy" intro)

19. The River of Dreams (with a "Twist and Shout" Beatles cover interlude)

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 (preceded by snippet of Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula)

Big Shot

Only the Good Die Yound

You May Be Right (with a "Rock and Roll" Led Zeppelin cover interlude)

review by Dan Karanikis, photos by Megan Garzone