Live Review: Billy Joel Rocks On Opening Night

Covers "Tubthumping" at Long Island show

January 31, 1998 12:00 AM ET

When an artist tours without a new album to support, he can do one of two things: Simply crank out the hits, or try something different. Billy Joel, kicking off his '98 North American tour Thursday night at Long Island's Nassau Coliseum, managed to do both.

Supported by a fine eight-piece band, Billy pumped out a seemingly endless stream of crowd-pleasing hits ["We Didn't Start the Fire," "River of Dreams," "Movin' Out"], while sprinkling the set with some well chosen, long-lost classics. In fact, Joel set up a website where fans can vote for songs they want to hear during this tour.

Joel's idea, he says, is to keep the shows from being "business as usual." He largely succeeded, pulling out wild cards like "Summer Highland Falls" (from 1974's Turnstiles album) and 1976's "Everybody Has A Dream," a song he'd never attempted live before.

Obviously delighted to be back onstage after a four-year absence, Joel played to the hometown crowd, mentioning local landmarks and reminiscing about his high school days. One such story led to one of the night's high points -- an a capella rendition of "The Longest Time," intro'd by a medley of doo wop classics like "Duke of Earl."

Overall, the Piano Man played the evening fast and loose, doing an impromptu rendition of Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping" on the accordion and even dedicating "Big Man on Mulberry Street" to "fellow Long Islander" Howard Stern as a birthday gift.

Joel closed out the set with "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" (the website's No. 1 request), plus some unexpected encores: "Captain Jack" and "Miami 2017."

Joel had recently announced his intention to switch to classical music, but except for playing a few bars of Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" Thursday night, he proved that as far as live shows go, it's still rock 'n' roll for him.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette | 1995

This blunt, bitter breakup song -- famous for its line "Would she go down on you in a theater?" -- was long rumored to be about Alanis Morissette getting dumped by Full House actor Dave Coulier. But while she never confirmed it was about him (Coulier himself says it is, however), she insisted the song wasn't all about scorn. "By no means is this record just a sexual, angry record," she told Rolling Stone. "The song wasn't written for the sake of revenge. It was written for the sake of release. I'm actually a pretty rational, calm person."

More Song Stories entries »