Billy Joel - Live at Shea Stadium: The Concert

Billy Joel
Live at Shea Stadium: The Concert

(Columbia/Legacy)

First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2011, Volume 18, #6

Written by John Metzger

Thu September 15, 2011, 05:30 AM CDT

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Within the realm of the entertainment industry, Shea Stadium was an historical monument. The venue not only provided the backdrop for the Metsí World Series victories in 1969 and 1986, but it also accommodated myriad blockbuster rock concerts. Not the least of these was The Beatlesí appearance in front of throngs of screaming fans as the outfit opened its North American tour in New York City in August 1965. Over the years, numerous other high-profile events were held at Shea Stadium, including shows by Simon & Garfunkel, The Who, and the Rolling Stones. Not surprisingly, it became a well-ingrained part of New York Cityís folklore.

With this in mind, Billy Joel is, perhaps, the only person who could have been tapped to bring Shea Stadiumís history to a fitting conclusion. After all, he is as tied to New York City as Bruce Springsteen is to the Jersey Shore. In July 2008, mere months before the wrecking ball would reduce Shea Stadium to rubble in order to make room for Citi Field, Joel took the stage for a two-night engagement. Over the course of both evenings, he trotted out an enviable stream of hits that spanned his career. The shows, too, were peppered with special guests that ranged from Tony Bennett and Garth Brooks to Roger Daltrey and Paul McCartney.

Not surprisingly, the festivities have been commemorated on the new two-CD, one-DVD package Live at Shea Stadium: The Concert. In watching the program, however, it becomes sadly apparent that Joel is sorely in need of some new material. Where Songs in the Attic brilliantly highlighted Joelís feisty stage presence as well as his keen observations on working-class citizens, Live at Shea Stadium: The Concert illustrates his waning enthusiasm for composing and performing.

Newer tunes, in particular, suffer mightily in Joelís hands. With its synthesizer accompaniment, We Didnít Start the Fire sounds horribly dated, while The River of Dreams is used entirely as a vehicle for launching into a cover of The Beatlesí A Hard Dayís Night. As bored as Joel is with some of his songs, though, his fans donít seem to care. They sing, whoop, and holler, applauding everything he does, as if they are witnessing the greatest show on Earth.

To be fair, most of the material that Joel penned in the 1970s is still quite durable. Likewise, there are moments when he seems to take pleasure in performing his older tunes. He still revels in the dramatic textures of Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway), the character portraits of Piano Man, and the agitated orchestrations of Prelude/Angry Young Man. Joel also finds comfort within the sorrowful strains of Summer Highland Falls, fully explores the jazzy contours of Zanzibar, and powers through the pop-fueled rock of You May Be Right and Only the Good Die Young. There wasnít a corner of his canon that Joel didnít investigate, and the nostalgia that lingered in the air extended far beyond the pending destruction of an historic building.

Eighteen years have passed since Joel last issued an album of new, pop-oriented material. It has been even longer since he assembled a truly stellar suite of songs. In essence, Joel has been coasting on his hits, the result of a strange lack of confidence in his talent. Although the strength of his accomplishments has carried him longer than most, his time is running out. At some point, Joel either is going to need to come up with a fresh batch of material or cede the spotlight to someone else. Clearly, even he has grown weary of the routine. While Live at Shea Stadium: The Concert provides a stellar overview of Joelís canon ó most of which is admirably delivered ó it also documents the crumbling foundation of several New York City institutions. starstarstar

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Of Further Interest...

Ben Folds - Rockin' the Suburbs

Elton John / Leon Russell - The Union

Paul Simon - You're the One

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Live at Shea Stadium: The Concert is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

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Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

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Copyright © 2011 The Music Box