Billy Joel – Great American Ball Park – September 10, 2021


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Billy Joel – Great American Ball Park – September 10, 2010

“So, I got nothing new for you, same old shit. But we know how to play it by now…”

Oh Billy, how we have missed you. The concert originally scheduled for 2020 but was delayed like the rest of the industry last year due to COVID. Thankfully with the year’s anticipation, everything fell into place perfectly this late summer evening.

Taking place at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park it was fitting that Joel made his way out to the stage to the theme from the 1984 baseball film, The Natural.  Joel and company then kicked off the night with “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” and “Pressure.”

The night was not without a couple of unwanted gate crashers or should I say gate flyers.  Early on Joel seemed to be swarmed with flying bugs.  He picked up a fly swatter he had on the piano and confessed that he was “not worried about getting bit but that he was worried about swallowing one” as we swatted them away.

He then led into announcing the third song of the evening goes back to 1975’s Streetlight Serenade and gave a powerful rendition of “The Entertainer.”

I have learned over the years watching Joel perform that even with an incredible catalogue of popular hits he is prone to include fun covers and snippets of song to go along with his stories.  Joel spoke about remembering coming to Cincinnati back in early ‘70s where “nobody cheered, and nobody cared” when he opened that night for Procol Harum.  It might have been a dramatic pause or a genuine second to wonder, but he then added “Life is funny” before playing a snippet of “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”  The sold-out crowd of over 36,000 ate it up.

One of the most memorable moments of the night was Joel’s dedication of “New York State of Mind” to the 20th anniversary of 9/11 that was coming up in just a couple hours.  Joel and that song will forever be etched in my mind when he performed that song live on “America: A Tribute to Heroes” mere days after the original tragedy.

Throughout the night the crowd would sing and sway to the familiar Joel hits that we all knew and sung a million times before in our cars: “Allentown,” “My Life” “The River of Dreams,” which also included a snippet of The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Women” before the ultimate sing-along of “Piano Man.”

Coming back from a brief break, a still catching his breath Joel and tour through 6 more songs that included our second Rolling Stones cover of the night “Brown Sugar” but this time it was dedicated to Charlie, the Stones drummer who passed away a few weeks before this show.

Closing out the night were two of Billy Joel’s biggest hits “Big Shot” and “You May Be Right” but he couldn’t just leave it alone – midway through they inserted the Led Zeppelin classic “Rock and Roll.”

The magic of a Billy Joel concert is the mixture of the nostalgia of his songs of the past that you know by heart, mixed with his down to earth regular joe personality that keeps the night squarely present.  At the end of the show, I was just as excited as I was comfortable and that is something special.

On this night in downtown Cincinnati, just like Robert Redford did in The Natural, Joel and his bandmates knocked the cover off the ball.    – Melissa Smith