Review: Billy Joel thrills a sell-out crowd at Tampa Bay Times Forum

A look back at Friday night's show; with photos & full setlist.


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As a true attestation of his appeal and of the loyalty his die hard fans possess, singer/songwriter Billy Joel can still sell out a 20,000-plus capacity arena without a new album to promote. In actuality, the native New Yorker hasn't released an album of original material since 1993's River of Dreams but his longtime followers don't care about that. They know that a Billy Joel show is going to be jam-packed with plenty of hits from his lengthy career as well as plenty of deep album cuts and obscurities. And, for the anxious, rowdy crowd that filled every possible seat at the Tampa Bay Times Forum last Friday night, they got exactly what they came for.[Text by Gabe, photos by DCG.]

The dapper Joel took his place at a grand piano that sat atop a revolving platform, clad in suit and tie. In an instant he took the audience on a trip in the way-back machine as the opening plaintive piano chords of "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" filled every crevice of the arena and was met with a roar of applause.

In fine vocals for the duration of the night and, in good spirits throughout, Joel engaged in plenty of comical banter between each song. From reciting random dialogue from classic gangster film The Godfather to taking jabs at Madonna, Joel's brand of silliness and comic relief was in full swing all night long.

As Joel has made very clear in recent interviews leading up to his first world tour in almost a decade, he's no longer interested in wheeling out a greatest-hits-only concert. Instead, he's said he prefers to blow the dust off of some material that either hasn't been featured in his concert repertoire for many years or hasn't been featured at all. And, with this decision, as he gave a brief intro for each song and recalled the original release year of some of the lesser-known material, Joel elated a huge portion of fans who know his catalog front to back.

"This one wasn't a, this might be a good time for some of you to go to the bathroom," he sheepishly muttered before launching into "Sleeping With the Television On," a barn burner from his multi-platinum 1980 album Glass Houses. Admittedly, the song wasn't met with the same enthusiasm as the more familiar "My Life," but, nonetheless, it was refreshing to see and hear a veteran artist go out on a limb and reward loyal vet by revisiting some obscure material.


Amid the impressive and dramatic light displays and the breathtaking high definition images that flashed on jumbo screens between projected video of Joel and his dynamic full band (including horn section), the night's true highlight came courtesy of a solo number that found Joel alone on piano. "And So It Goes," the album-closing number off 1989's Storm Front took on a level of beauty and poignancy that was never achieved in the recorded version. Joel's vocals were clear and strong as he belted out his very best and most powerful croons of the night.

The back-to-back performances of the epic "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" and his signature sing-along classic "Piano Man" proved a perfect way to wrap up the night and leave the crowd begging for more.

And Joel delivered the goods, and the hits, when he returned to the stage for the encore. Starting with a blistering version of one of his best rockers, "Big Shot," Joel growled and poured every bit of venom into the berating number that the original 1978 version packed. An older and less mobile Billy took his first and only foray away from his perch at his piano to make his way center stage and twirl his mic stand for "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me." Always a crowd-pleaser, the sound of the audience singing along almost drowned out Joel own vocals during the performance.

It's easy to understand the appeal of Billy Joel for so many of his longtime supporters. For nearly two hours, Joel dug deep into his vast catalog and pulled out plenty of his smash hits along the way, and the fans were right there with him the whole way. Not many artists are fortunate enough to have a fanbase that is as supportive and as loyal as Billy Joel's.

Set list:
Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)
Sleeping with the Television On
My Life
All for Leyna
Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
Layla (snippet)(Derek & the Dominoes)
And So It Goes
New York State of Mind
The Entertainer
Don't Ask Me Why
The River of Dreams
Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
Piano Man


Big Shot
It's Still Rock and Roll to Me
You May Be Right
Only the Good Die Young


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