REVIEW: Billy Joel and Elton John’s Face 2 Face tour at Citizens Bank Park

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Thursday night, July 30th, Christy and I went to the Face 2 Face tour of Billy Joel and Elton John at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. This is cool for two reasons: 1) neither of us had been to Citizens Bank Park before (not being baseball fans of any caliber) and 2) we were going to see a show with arguably the two biggest and best piano men in rock and roll history. I had been worried earlier in the week, as Billy Joel had been struck with the flu, forcing the cancellation of two dates in upstate NY. Elton was well, but the design of the sets, with both men playing on each other’s songs at the front and back of the show, made it next to impossible for it just to become an Elton John show. So, I worried that Billy would not be well for Philadelphia. No cancellation notices came through, so we went.

Citizens Bank Park is nice. I don’t need to tell the rest of the MLD crew that. They already know, being Philadelphia Phillies fans. It’s so nice, I actually wondered about going to games there in the future, and sitting in the 400s (which is where our tickets were, above home plate, directly across from the stage), so that if I get bored with farming (whoops, I mean BASEBALL) I can look out on a really impressive view of Philadelphia proper, and thrill to the fact that I don’t have to be in Camden to see that view. Oh… wait, this is a concert review. Right…

Elton and Billy have done this sort of package thing before, and I attended, back in 96 when it was the Heart and Soul tour. There was fire, there was gusto, there was two men who still had full heads of hair, and a Veterans Stadium jam-packed with fans all the way to the 700 level. Fast forward to now, and only Elton still has hair (plugs/hair transplants for Reg, still going strong, and looking good!), and… well, it was sort of a repeat of that 13 years-in-the-past concert, with a few notable exceptions: Billy has no hair to speak of now, except of the facial variety, Billy’s longtime drummer, Liberty DeVitto was NOT on this tour, and Elton… just didn’t seem into it. That’s okay, most of the stadium didn’t seem really into it, either. Whether it was because it was still daylight through the entire Elton John set, or he was dreading having to play the only songs Philadelphia seems to know from his catalog (which are, for the record: Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting, Crocodile Rock, Rocket Man, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me, I’m Still Standing and, yes, Philadelphia Freedom), Elton played a solid, professional and very distant set.

Billy Joel on the other hand, started out slow, and I feared the show would suck completely. I mean, the man HAD just come off 72 hours of doctor-ordered rest from a bout with the flu. Angry Young Man felt more like Tired Old Geezer in the way Billy played it, but cripes, only one song later, during Big Shot, Billy hit his stride. His between song banter hadn’t changed too much since last I’d seen him live at the Wachovia center, though he did keep it fresh for the CBP. He also gave a shout out to his daugther, Alexa Ray Joel, who was going to be playing her own show at the Tin Angel, the night after. He looked really proud to have his daughter “continue in the family business”. Even though he seemed to be just hanging on in some of his songs, Billy kicked out the piano jams with his band. It was almost a disappointment when Elton John came back for some more dueling pianos action at the end, but lo and behold, Elton finally looked like he was ENJOYING himself at the end of the concert. Go figure!

A couple of weird notes:

• Two “ain’t gonna see the sunny side of 45” blondes behind us at the show, with their obnoxious kids, kept yakking their way through most of Elton John’s set, sending the one gal’s husband repeatedly for beers. The kids themselves gave us such eloquent food for thought as this: “This song is SOOO long!” and after only one song into Elton John’s set, “All these songs sound the same.” My favorite of these mooks, though, is this brilliant line, from the blond-headed mullet wearing kid with the Phillies shirt on: “This is SOOO not the studio version. This is DEFINITELY the live version of this song.” Really? At a concert, which is LIVE, there’s the LIVE version? You don’t say, Aristotle?!

• During the last part of the show, when EJ rejoined Billy on stage, Billy had a fly swatter in his hand, that he was beating himself with, while playing one handed, and would get up from the piano during songs and walk away for bits. Antibiotics a little strong, Billy?

• Christy and I got lost searching for our car, and walked through all the surrounding parking lots, until I remembered the movable landmark of a Winnebago, which finally led us back to our car after about 30 minutes of searching. I can only chalk this up to my training with ComedySportzPhilly, and call it a callback.

Even after all this time, I still love Billy Joel. Even after being knocked down by the flu, the man can still get up and give a rock-n-roll show worth your ticket price. Tell your grandparents to try that on for size!

End verdicts: Elton John: dislike. Billy Joel: like! Mook morons behind us: dislike! View of the city: like! Sitting at the ballpark watching rock and roll with my wife: like!

Overall: Like!

Yours truly,


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