There aren’t too many musicians out there these days that come close to the success of Billy Joel. Having made his permanent mark in the music industry in the 70’s with his signature New York style of soft rock, Joel went on to become one of the best selling artists in the world. “I never thought I’d be doing this song in my 70’s. I never thought I’d be doing this gig in my 70’s” he would tell the crowd ahead of his performance of Innocent Man at London’s famous Hyde Park. And what a hell of a gig it was!
We arrived to Hyde Park just in time for a stellar warm up performance by early-noughties hitmaker, Natasha Bedingfield. Dressed in a flowing cream number which was studded head to toe with jewels and pearls, the singer got the crowd singing along to some of the decades biggest pop numbers.
Thanking the crowd at one point for “putting me on the map”, singles that helped do exactly that were all out on full display under the unforgiving sun. Pocket of Sunshine and a shortened acapella version of Wild Horses showcased Bedingfield’s effortlessly powerful vocals while the crowd had their chance to dance through early singles, Single and These Words; both still retaining their pop freshness despite being released near to twenty years ago. A few covers were thrown in: a gorgeous version of Coldplay’s The Scientist had the crowd swaying along with the star and one of the best covers of Prince’s Purple Rain that we have heard, swept over the growing Hyde Park crowd and contained some of the most impressive vocals heard throughout Bedingfield’s set.
Taking the heat and a few minor technical difficulties in her stride, the singer closed her time on stage with a flowing acoustic performance of Unwritten, a song that has become her signature hit and found its way into social media platforms in recent years, generating a whole new fanbase for the Brockley superstar.
While we were keen to catch a few songs by 80’s hitmaker Daryl Hall, we headed backstage to catch up with Natasha following her set to see how she felt about the performance and what she has in store for the rest of the year. You can check out the short video interview below:
As the sun continued to bake down on London’s Hyde Park, we gathered up a couple of drinks and made our way into the crowd to take position for the man of the hour! Billy Joel!
The Bronx-born Piano Man has created some of the most successful songs of the last century including Uptown Girl, The Longest Time, You May Be Right and River of Dreams and while he may not have recorded anything new in three decades, something he drew attention to last night, telling the crowd “I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is I don’t have anything new to play. The good news is that you won’t have to hear anything new”, igniting the sold out park crowd with laughter – a hint of the comedic side of the songwriting legend at work as he dominates even the biggest of world stages with cool, charm and dad jokes behind his elusively dark glasses. With the singer pushing the numbers age-wise, the demand to see the key tinkering superstar has never been higher – as last night’s remarkable performance in London’s Hyde Park displayed as the green space was quickly overflowing with the bodies of die hard Joel fans; most wearing concert t-shirts of previous tours or the latest BST merchandise.
With songs from over 5 decades to chose from, the night was set to be a spectacular one. And we have to remember; Joel has been selling out stadiums and open spaces like these for almost as long as he has been making music so playing to 65,000 people is like a walk in the park…pun intended. Despite all of this however, the icon made the show feel intimate; gifting fans with banter or anecdotes ahead of or after almost every song and bringing us into his world and his experiences of recording some of the most cherished songs in the great American songbook.
A proud New Yorker, many of the the hits that paid homage to the Big Apple were dressed with backdrops of the cityon the large screens to add further grit and flavor to the performances. A delicate trapse through crowd voted Vienna and the gentle New York State of Mind had even the most rigid of concert goers singing along while Joel jokingly mentioned ‘Don’t bulls**t me, you didn’t buy that album, nobody bought that album’ ahead of his performance of deep cut The Entertainer; referring to 1774’s Streetlife Serenade while showing off the stars edgy showmanship that isn’t confined just to the piano and songwriting.
Personal favourite The Longest Time was performed in original acapella form; his talented backing band (who shone in their own performances of River Deep Mountain High by backing singer Crystal Taliefero and a cover of Giacomo Puccini’s Nessun Dorma by handsome guitarist Mike Delguidice) providing the vocal exchanges that make the song a real standout within the expansive Joel catalogue.
Flames lit up the giant screens that served as Joels backdrop during his performance of We Didn’t Start The Fire as images of the lyrical nods were shown as a way for the crowd to remember the lines and sing along, while opening hit My Life proved one of the biggest numbers as the crowd dedicated themselves to singing the infectious title words with the singer with an energy that literally shook the ground of Hyde Park.
I don’t know why I was as surprised as I was at the sheer power and youthfulness in Joel’s voice. Thinking it may have withered over time or that the range that has become so distinctive with Joel and his songs might have been lost to age, I was really blown away at how remarkable he sounded. He was as close to record quality as you could hope for and for a man in his 70’s, and all while retaining that New York charm for the ladies, giving the female fans a special moment as cameras focused in on them – many weeping as they watched the superstar on his rotating piano – during his flowing performance of She’s Always a Woman.
Joels encore delivered some of the best moments of the night with a fantastic singalong to The Beatles Hard Days Night, mega Joel hits including Big Shot, It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me and closing You May Be Right but it was signature hit, Uptown Girl that came with a surprise performance alongside Jonas Brothers frontman, Joe Jonas who danced excitedly alongside the iconic Piano Man; helping those remarkably high notes reach their fullest potential for the Hyde Park crowd.
During the show the cameras often presented us with a birds eye view of Joel’s piano; the musicians fingers moving frantically over the keys as he would belt out unweathered vocals and recount moments of his 50+ year career as one of the leading men in music. Joel has created a catalogue that goes fairly unmatched in music and most of the pieces that make up that career were delivered to us last night. It was, without doubt, one of the most memorable, vibrant and fun shows we have ever been to. Near the start of the show Joel jokingly commented, ‘I’m not sure when this old ass is going to be back again.’ For that, we feel so thankful to have been a part of such a monumental show.
My Life (with “Ode to Joy” intro)
Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
Vienna (audience choice over “Just… more )
An Innocent Man (with “Start Me Up” first two verses as intro)
The Longest Time
Don’t Ask Me Why
New York State of Mind
She’s Always a Woman
Sometimes a Fantasy
Only the Good Die Young
The River of Dreams (With River Deep Mountain High)
Nessun dorma (Giacomo Puccini cover) (Sung by Mike Delguidice)
Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
We Didn’t Start the Fire
Uptown Girl (with Joe Jonas)
It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
A Hard Day’s Night (The Beatles cover)
You May Be Right
::: RenownedForSound.com’s Editor and Founder –
Interviewing and reviewing the best in new music and globally recognized artists is his passion.
Over the years he has been lucky enough to review thousands of music releases and concerts and interview artists ranging from top selling superstars like 27-time Grammy Award winner Alison Krauss, Boyz II Men, Roxette, Cyndi Lauper, Lisa Loeb and iconic Eagles front man/songwriter, Glenn Frey through to more recent successes including Newton Faulkner, Janelle Monae and Caro Emerald.
Brendon manages and coordinates the amazing team of writers on RenownedForSound.com who are based in the UK, the U.S and Australia.