Billy Joel fills 2 hours with all-American anthems

| Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, 12:32 a.m.

The legendary Piano Man Billy Joel put on a show at Consol Energy Center on Friday night that was everything you would expect from an artist of this caliber, with a two-hour set of his nonstop all-American anthems.

Joel's show showed the sold-out crowd heavily populated with 40- and 50-somethings an up-close look at the man's many talents, including singing his self-penned songs, playing the piano and harmonica, and entertaining the audience with his witty, engaging talk.

Even with thousands of people packing the big venue, Joel, as he told stories to the audience, made the concert somehow feel like a special performance, just for you. He joked as he regularly puffed his mouth spray that he called the Entertainer's Secret, sipped from a Billy Joel coffee mug, and looked into mirrors, commenting about how his 64-year-old self looks curiously like Joel's dad. Joel's body has aged, but his distinctive and rich voice barely has.

Joel spent most of the show singing into a microphone while playing his piano, “Piano Man” style. The piano stood atop a rotating circle on the stage, so that audiences in different areas could alternate getting good views.

During Joel's performance of the signature classic “Piano Man,” he played triple duty with vocals, piano and harmonica. He hung a harmonica structure around his neck, and alternated between blowing the recognizable harmonica tune of the song and stretching higher to sing into the microphone.

Joel's set included some older songs from the ‘70s that never became hit singles like “Zanzibar” and “Summer Highland Falls.” The audience roared when Joel gave us the fan favorites from the ‘70s and ‘80s — including “Movin' Out” (Anthony's Song), with the delightful ‘Cadillac-acacacacac' stutter and images of Brooklyn apartments — and a five-song encore that included the power anthems “It's Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “Only the Good Die Young,” “Big Shot, “Uptown Girl” and “You May Be Right.” Most of the fans at Consol seemed to know all the words by heart.

One of the evening's highlights was Joel's singing of the classic “Allentown,” which could have been a hometown song personalized for Pittsburgh. The song came with a backing video showing factories and what looked like steel mills, and images of bridges. And Allentown is, after all, in the same state of Pennsylvania. Joel's “New York State of Mind” came with visuals that felt like an aerial tour of Manhattan at nighttime.

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