Billy Joel performing at The Old Trafford Football Stadium Manchester on Saturday 16th June 2018.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Billy Joel hasn’t released an album since 2001 but when you are able to give 50,000 fans a two and a half hour electrifying performance as he did last night at the Old Trafford Football Stadium in Manchester, then it doesn’t really matter.

To say the man is a musical legend is an understatement. With five Grammy’s, a Kennedy Centre Honour and a Gershwin Prize For Popular Song amongst others, he certainly has the accolades to prove it. As the 69 year old sat behind his rotating baby grand piano, he kicked things off with a fun rendition of Glory Glory Man United before he launched into hit single My Life.

And the evening had begun. With a career spanning five decades and with thirteen albums to pick from, choosing a set list that pleases all of the fans must have caused the most problems, and last night he managed to earn the appreciation of this capacity crowd.

There were selected picks which included the frantic Pressure to the upbeat Don’t Ask Me Why, with a time set aside for the ballads that the crowd were clearly waiting for. As he usually does at a live concert, Joel provided the audience with several song choices and allowed their vocalising to determine the winner. On this occasion Vienna won out over Just The Way You Are and a finger snapping rendition of The Longest Time was chosen over an Innocent Man.

As his piano moved around the massive stage, which was flanked by video screens that showed close ups of him and lovely footage of New York scenery, Joel appeared relaxed and happy. With his between song banter thoroughly entertaining the crowd, he went on to perform covers of tracks that he stated he wished he had written. There was a bluesy growl of The Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman, Led Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times, a rousing rendition of Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love, a bouncing Hard Days Night and even a nod to The Dave Clark Five’s Glad all Over.

But it was Joel’s own songs that the crowd wanted to hear and he did not disappoint as he and his very tight band which included long time saxophonist Mark Rivera, treated them to Half A Mile Away, Zanzibar from his 1979 album 52nd Street, New York State Of Mind which saw photos of his three daughters beamed across the big screens and She’s Always A Woman To Me which really pulled on the heart strings as the crowd sang along to every word.

In the run up to the close of the main set, the crowd were taken by surprise with a stunning version of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, a lesser known Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, and the harmonica led Piano Man which saw the crowd light up the stadium with their mobile phones.

For the encore he returned to the stage with his guitar for a rocking We Didn’t Start The Fire, which saw the crowd belting the words right back at him and of course his most iconic hit, 1983’s Uptown Girl.

Finishing this showcase of exceptional music with You May Be Right, Billy Joel had truly entertained on what was his only scheduled UK gig of the year. Perhaps he can be persuaded to come back soon so that we can do it all over again.