Amway Center has a great tradition of presenting a cake to a few of the major stars who play at the arena and Billy Joel was the recipient of one of those great confections made by Sprinkles Custom Cakes before his show last week. Taking in the cake in his image,
Joel looked at the tiny tip jar on the piano cake that was half empty and joked, “This guy isn’t making much money”! He was also presented with an Orlando Magic jersey by the Amway Center team. This was all happening just minutes before Mr. Joel took the stage. Yes fans, these are the things that go on backstage while you are taking your seats and getting your drinks!
Billy makes a trek every year to the Florida west coast to start the New Year off with one of his sold-out shows. This year he brought the family with him to Orlando to do Disney World! By the time Billy and his band hit the stage, the Amway Center was a fever pitch! From diehard Joel fans to families with kids in tow, Billy brings together a collective audience with one thing in common, the music! He plays plenty of that in his 2 and ½ hour set.
Opening with 1978’s “Big Shot” starts things off with gusto! It’s amazing that over 20,000 people are singing along to a song that is now 40 years old! Joel’s songs are timeless regardless of references made to places that no longer exist, it is about the feelings the songs bring to the audience. Whether it is reminiscing of your youth hearing this song on the radio or a kid hearing it today, we all know someone who has to be a “Big Shot” even if it is ourselves.
Obviously much of Billy’s vast catalog are songs about New York. Born in the Bronx and raised on Long Island, many of Joel’s experiences and observations come from life in and around NYC. Some of his most beloved tunes about the city that never sleeps include “New York State of Mind”, “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights go out on Broadway)”, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and even “Uptown Girl” about a guy and girl from different parts of the city. All of these tunes and more were on Orlando’s setlist and the transplanted New Yorkers living in Florida were on their feet whistling and yelling about their beloved city!
What makes a Billy Joel show really great is, not only the songs, but the musicians playing them! Billy has arranged a group of incredible musicians! From the early days through today, Joel has always had great backing bands! The current Billy Joel Band includes Mark Rivera on saxophone & percussion, Chuck Burgi on drums, Crystal Taliefero on everything from harmonica to bongos, David Rosenthal on keyboards is musical director, Mike DelGuidice, on guitar and vocals, Tommy Byrnes on lead guitar, Andy Cichon on bass and finally Carl Fischer on the horn section. Billy gives each musician a chance to shine with a solo and introduction to the audience.
The classic “Piano Man” brings the audience to their feet in a sing-along that can be heard down to I-4! The entire arena is in song together and it is a wonderful goosebump moment! Next comes the beginning of the encore, with Billy being a rock star guitarist complete with throwing picks to the audience! Rocking “We Didn’t Start the Fire” complete with the images of the lyrics running across the screen bringing long gone celebrities and memories to life. “Uptown Girl” with Billy dancing around the stage is fun to watch. “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me” and “You May Be Right” bring the show to an end on a high note with people yelling for just one more as the lights come up. You know what they say, “Always leave them wanting more”!
Photos by Vicky Sullivan / sarasotapost.com