The Lords of 52nd Street were happy to escape the brutal northeast weather to fly into Sarasota for a performance at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night. Three of the members are legends from the original Billy Joel band: Russell Javors on guitar, Richie Cannata on saxophone & percussion and, drummer extraordinaire, Liberty DeVitto! The original band, which included the late Doug Stegmeyer, were dubbed the name by producer Phil Ramone and Billy Joel back in the 70’s.
Several years ago the trio was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame which became the impetus of the Lords of 52nd Street hitting the road. Along with the band is the 52nd Street Orchestra which includes Doug Kistner on keyboards, Bassist Malcolm Gold and guitarist Dennis DelGaudio, both worked on the Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp Broadway production of Movin’ Out and Long Island singer/pianist, David Clark, who has been playing Billy Joel tunes for years.
No opening act and starting right on time, the band opened with “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)”. This is not a tribute band as these are original band members who were part of the arrangement process and are on the original recordings of these famous hit records including “The Stranger”, “Turnstiles” and “Glass Houses”, and the majority of the Billy Joel catalog. When you hear these songs on the radio, these are the musicians you hear in the band.
There were many New Yorkers in the audience like the people sitting next to me who came to hear the original band and are still Billy Joel fans today. There was talk of Long Island and people yelling out song requests, though there was no need, the setlist was a great mix of classic Billy Joel songs. Singing along is encouraged and, if you are a fan, you know the lyrics. Saxophonist Richie Cannata brought a great solo during “New York State of Mind” that left you wondering where he was getting the air to keep blowing.
On “Prelude/Angry Young Man” David Clark does a formidable job on a challenging piano piece while Liberty DeVitto takes it to another level with his drum solo! Jumping down to the stage, DeVitto tells the audience that he, “first played this song at age 24 and am now 68 and, if they tell you you can’t do it, tell them this!” as he flashes his middle finger! This drew an ovation, laughter and yells from the audience! Russell Javors keeps the guitar solos going and handles background vocals throughout the entire show. Lighting and sound were right on the money for this show that is all about the music.
The Lords of 52nd Street have long ago paid their musical dues and now they are having a good time playing music to the audiences that grew up with them playing these timeless
Photos by Vicky Sullivan / Sarasota Post / Set list photo courtesy of Brian McDermaid