The Billy Joel Experience

On Saturday night, I fulfilled a dream I’ve had ever since discovering my parents’ Billy Joel vinyl records in the 4th grade (my birthday present that year was a stereo with a record player). Whether you know him as The Piano Man, The Entertainer, or An Innocent Man, Billy Joel is a music icon who performs one hell of a show. Clay and I both agree that it was the best concert we’ve attended and we won’t hesitate to see him again. Two words can easily sum up the show – absolutely amazing.


The sold-out concert was at Nationals Park – we went with our friends, Chris and Christine, who have the same affinity for Billy Joel. The four of us are not fair-weather fans (e.g. I danced with my Dad at our wedding to Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) and Clay and I once spent a 16-hour road trip only listening to the entire Billy Joel catalog) and we were thrilled to share the experience with good company.


While on the metro into the city, we learned the majority of fellow riders were on their way to the concert as well. Our train car was a great representation of the concert-attendees – young and old fans alike. We chatted with one couple who attended their first Billy Joel concert in 1972 (!) and have attended countless shows since. We met up with Chris and Christine at the Fairgrounds and enjoyed some ice-cold beers on the ridiculously hot evening before entering the ballpark.


Once inside, we had some time before the 8:00pm start time so we waited in line for our first Shake Shack experience. Clay fancies himself somewhat of a burger aficionado so he was eager to see how hipster-loving Shake Shack burgers stacked against others (verdict: the shake was decent, the fries were unremarkable, and the burgers were pretty darn delicious). Chris and Clay almost ordered the Shroom Burger but thankfully discovered last minute that it was the vegetarian offering and not made of beef – phew. We ate our dinner, grabbed a couple more beers, and headed to our seats. photo-3

While they were on the upper deck, our seats did have an incredible view of the stadium and we had no problem viewing the action on stage. Gavin Degraw was the opening act and did a great job – despite not owning any of his albums, I enjoyed his set, especially Best I’ve Ever Had. At 9:00pm the sky was dark, the air just a little bit cooler, and Billy Joel walked out on stage to thunderous applause, sat down at the piano, and began to play A Matter of Trust.


Like I said earlier, the show was amazing. Billy Joel is a true entertainer – he interacted with the crowd between songs, often offering insight to the lyrics or melody of a particular song. He kept a flyswatter on his piano and used it when necessary (let’s face it, Washington DC was built on a swamp. A swamp!). Billy Joel made sure to highlight his band members throughout the show (Mark Rivera and Crystal Taliefero were insanely good) and he didn’t hesitate to joke with the crowd. Before one song, he informed us that we could sing along if we were “able to keep up with the lyrics.” Of course everyone thought he was going to play We Didn’t Start the Fire and the crowd exploded. And then he launched into She’s Always a Woman. After finishing, he jumped off the piano bench, grabbed a guitar, and catapulted into We Didn’t Start the Fire. He also toyed with the crowd before Piano Man, playing a variety of melodies before settling into the well-known chords. Much to our delight, we were also treated to rendition of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell by Chainsaw, a longtime roadie of Billy Joel. And halfway through Goodnight Saigon, Vietnam Veterans filled the stage and were treated to a standing ovation for the rest the song. A chilling moment, for sure. Billy Joel is known for playing his hits but with a catalog as large as his, there is no way he can play everything. I’ve been stalking his set lists of previous shows this tour so we all went into the concert with our long-shot hopefuls. We were thrilled to hear The Downeaster Alexa but sad that I Go to Extremes and And So It Goes didn’t make the cut this time around. We weren’t disappointed though because it just gives us an excuse to see him again, which we definitely will! It was just an amazing experience.

Setlist – Billy Joel, Nationals Park, July 26, 2014

  1. A Matter of Trust
  2. Pressure
  3. The Entertainer
  4. An Innocent Man
  5. Zanzibar
  6. New York State of Mind
  7. The Downeaster Alexa
  8. Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
  9. Goodnight Saigon
  10. Allentown
  11. My Life
  12. She’s Always a Woman
  13. We Didn’t Start the Fire
  14. Highway to Hell (Chainsaw)
  15. Don’t Ask Me Why
  16. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
  17. The River of Dreams
  18. Piano Man
  19. Uptown Girl
  20. It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
  21. Big Shot
  22. You May Be Right
  23. Only the Good Die Young



10 thoughts on “The Billy Joel Experience

  1. I would have traded out something for “I Go To Extremes”, but that is me. I’m also a fan of several early tracks on River of Dreams – Great Wall of China, No Man’s Land, Blonde Over Blue, but as those aren’t super famous, I would probably die if he played one at a concert. Glad you had fun, sounds amazing!

    1. Haha. Glad to know Clay and I aren’t the only big fans of River of Dreams. Those who fancy themselves hardcore Joel fans tend to dismiss the later albums. I think they’re all great because he’s Billy *&^%ing Joel. 🙂

  2. So glad you got to see and enjoy his concert. Altho I do like his music, attending none of his concerts has never been high on our list. However, we have sen Chicago in concert 3 times qnd try hqrd not to miss one when they are near by.

    1. We have never seen Chicago – the next big concert we hope to attend is AC/DC. Rumor has it they’re touring the US next year. We’ll see!

  3. Sounds like fun! Billy Joel plays about once a month at Madison Square Garden, and we would love to go, but the tickets keep selling out! Alas, I don’t think it’s in the stars for us.

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