Review: Billy Joel salutes Kiev and gets snarky during chilly Orlando show

’Twas a pretty good crowd for a Saturday.

click to enlarge Billy Joel plays Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on March 12, 2022. - PHOTO BY JOSH BRADLEY
Photo by Josh Bradley
Billy Joel plays Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on March 12, 2022.
“Good evening, Alaska!” Billy Joel called out to a freezing cold Saturday night crowd at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium. “What the hell’s going on?!”

It’s been a hot minute since the Piano Man has performed in an outdoor venue in Florida. During the summer, it’s too hot for that shit, and when he takes on his biannual performance at Tampa’s Amalie Arena at the beginning of even numbered years—excluding 2022—it’s still too cold. But a stadium show during mid-March in Florida? What could possibly go wrong? Not too hot, or too cold.

At 8:30 p.m., with the music that played over the ending credits of "The Natural" blared through the speakers, Joel doddered onstage to his black grand piano, clad in a black suit and dark navy blue scarf. As one does, he opened with “Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out on Broadway),” which did not feature the really complex portion of the song’s original piano opening. It’s immensely fun—and mentally rewarding—to play, but when you hit 72 years old, play as fast, you will not.

Before what was Joel’s regular series of wall-to-wall hits, he made sure to both acknowledge how shitty the world is right now, and make fun of Camping World Stadium’s name. “Last time I went camping, I froze my ass off, too,” he joked. “You brought winter clothes, right? That’ll help the sound a lot, actually.” It wouldn’t be long before Billy actually whipped out a black beanie of his own, in an effort to keep his shiny scalp toasty.

Possibly out of pity, Florida finally got the performance of “Just The Way You Are” it had been waiting for since 1990. Joel performed “a famous piece” in honor of those suffering in Kiev, entitled “Great Gate of Kiev,” which should honestly stay in the setlist until further notice. He hopped back into pop star mode for back-to-back setlist mainstays “Zanzibar” and “Vienna,” the former including insanely masterful work from trumpeter Carl Fischer. And you know darn well that somewhere in the crowd tonight, somebody got engaged during “She’s Always A Woman.”

Last Saturday marked the 42nd anniversary of Joel’s groundbreaking Glass Houses album, so you’d think he’d do something special for that anniversary, right? While almost all of side A was indeed on the setlist (sans “All For Leyna,”) he axed what could have been a seemingly rare performance of “Sleeping With The Television On,” replacing it with “Sometimes A Fantasy.” As much as we love reliving Billy’s infamous Soviet Union freakout during the song’s second verse, it’s still a sacrifice many of us would have gladly made.

click to enlarge Billy Joel plays Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on March 12, 2022. - PHOTO BY JOSH BRADLEY
Photo by Josh Bradley
Billy Joel plays Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on March 12, 2022.
Storm Front’s “I Go To Extremes” was a very nice surprise, and almost didn’t get played, due to Billy originally wanting to skip it over. “Are we doin’ this one? Alrighty, then!” He said in a high-pitched tone. Sure enough, he gave his all on the cut, even ending the song by pounding the piano keys with his butt. He wasn’t done giving the less-than-sold-out crowd its money’s worth. “The River of Dreams” continues to include its cover-based interlude. Normally, Billy dusts off something by an artist who has recently fallen (like when he saluted Glenn Frey in 2016, during his interlude in Tampa). Instead, multi-instrumentalist and all-around badass Crystal Taliefero lead the band in a powerhouse rendition of “Dancing In The Street” that was undoubtedly not the Jagger-Bowie edition. “If you can name it, she can play it,” Joel declared once the song ended.

To Billy Joel’s fanbase, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is always a signal that the end is nigh,” because he’s about to be handed a harmonica holder to put around his neck, humorously pant three times, and rip into his sing-along of a main set closer, “Piano Man.” When launching into the song’s final verse, he looked out into the crowd and smiled. “It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday,” he sang. He sure as heck wasn’t wrong about that, or the fact that we wanted to forget about life for awhile.

What felt like an exemplary closer was actually followed by five more songs. Joel sauntered back onstage with a blue Strat to wield during “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” twirled his microphone around for “Uptown Girl” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” and sat back down at his grand for “Big Shot” and “You May Be Right,” shattering glass and all. “Stay warm, be safe,” he exited with. It’s no “don’t take any shit from anybody,” but we all mellow with age, I suppose.

If snowbirds ever grind your gears again, just remember that Billy Joel exists, and will probably drop into Tampa next year, and you will unconditionally cheer him on. Hopefully, it’ll be at Amalie Arena, as opposed to Raymond James Stadium. God help the location that has weather off-putting enough for Billy.

About The Author

Josh Bradley

Josh Bradley is Creative Loafing Tampa's resident live music freak. He started freelancing with the paper in 2020 at the age of 18, and has since covered, announced, and previewed numerous live shows in Tampa Bay, even as the live music industry continues to get back on its feet.
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