March 9, 2019
I ain’t gonna lie – This concert was a bucket list item for us and was an absolute blast to photograph! To this day I contend that Billy Joel is one of the finest singer/songwriter/entertainers of our generation. Tonight’s show continued to prove me correct. We will be forever grateful to “person who shall remain anonymous” for taking a chance on Renae and I to photograph this show for them. We sincerely hope we did you proud!
For those uninitiated in the world of concert photography, there are times when it is easier to get an audience with the Pope or have lunch with the President then it is to get approved to photograph a band or artist. (I know this because I photographed President Regan in 1986, but that’s another story) We were very fortunate to make the right connection to get credentials for this show. And as is the usual case for most shows, we were only allowed to shoot the first three songs. So Renae and I and the other 11 photogs were herded into an area at stage right. We were very glad to be there but the back story is that all 13 photographers had a somewhat restricted viewing area with monitors, equipment cases, the metal stage structure etc. to shoot through to try and capture photos of Billy and the rest of the band. When you see the images from this show just know that they were strategically captured looking between cases, monitors and the other photographers. And yes – it is way cool to stand in front of a sea of 55,000+ people!
The lights dimmed and Billy Joel and his band appeared on stage. I can assure you that shooting photos for the first 3 songs for an icon lasts for about a blink of an eye. You rely on muscle memory and hope like hell that you have your settings correct and that you end up with some usable images. Before you have time to think you are being escorted out of the pit and in this case, out of the stadium. We planned for this and bought tickets so we could sit and watch the remainder of the show. What we did not plan for was the left field foul pole being directly in our view. Such is the luck of the draw when ordering tickets online.
And what a show it was! Billy opened with “Big Shot” which got the crowd to their feet right off the bat. The majority of which did not sit down for the remainder of the show. It is obvious that this band has been together for a while and they sounded great. Song number two was another fan favorite – “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway” from his 1976 album Turnstiles. Billy let the crowd decide (by applause) what song number 3 would be and “The Longest Time” was the winner. Right before the song started a moth decided to crash the stage and hang around Billy and his Piano. A fly swatter quickly appeared, and you may see a photo or two of Billy unsuccessfully attempting to end the moth’s stage visit.
Billy played through a great setlist that included “The Entertainer”, “Vienna”, “Allentown”, “New York State of Mind”, “She’s Always a Woman”, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and of course, “Piano Man” which ended the main set. Billy bantered with the crowd on several occasions. At one point early on, a fan had thrown a scarf onstage and Billy draped it around his neck. He quickly removed it and commented that “It was not his color” and after smelling it said, “it stinks!” before tossing it back into the crowd. At one point Billy played an excerpt from Elton John’s “Your Song” and when he sang the line “Don’t have much money…” he paused and said “You don’t have much money? Bullshit!”.
Chainsaw, one of Billy’s roadies is from Phoenix and he got his local moment by singing AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” to the exuberant crowd. Billy did four encores which included “We Didn’t Start The Fire”, “Uptown Girl”, It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” and the finale “You May Be Right/Rock and Roll”. (Led Zeppelin cover) The band waved to the crowd and left the stage, followed by Billy.
It was a great evening and a great concert. We’re very thankful to have been given the chance to photograph this show. We’re pleased with the images that we captured, and we have all 57 of them posted on our Torenka.com website. Please take a look and let us know what you think!