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.
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
- A Matter of Trust
- The Entertainer
- An Innocent Man
- New York State of Mind
- The Downeaster Alexa
- Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
- Goodnight Saigon
- My Life
- She’s Always a Woman
- We Didn’t Start the Fire
- Highway to Hell (Chainsaw)
- Don’t Ask Me Why
- Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
- The River of Dreams
- Piano Man
- Uptown Girl
- It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
- Big Shot
- You May Be Right
- Only the Good Die Young