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Volume 2, Issue 2                                    University of Houston

In the mood for a melody

'Piano Man' gives memorable final appearance in Houston

By Jason Caesar Consolacion
Staff Writer

Nearly two years ago, Billy Joel announced that he would no longer record rock 'n' roll music, choosing instead to turn his talents to classical composition.

This, of course, saddened many of his fans, but the "Piano Man" wasn't going to say goodbye quietly. Joel continued to tour both alone and with fellow piano rocker Elton John before wrapping up his retirement celebration with The 2000 Years Tour.

Only a few cities were included on Joel's final tour, and Houston was the fourth-to-last stop. Joel's final show will be on New Year's Eve at Madison Square Garden.

Clad in a black suit, Joel treated the mostly middle-aged Compaq Center audience Dec. 16 to a collection of greatest hits, playful covers and even a handful of holiday tunes.

After opening with the classics "Only the Good Die Young" and "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," Joel welcomed the crowd to the concert, talking at length about how much the city and Compaq Center have changed.

"It's been a long time since we've played here, you know?" Joel said. "So we were driving around and I says to everyone, 'Where the hell are we?' They tell me we're in Houston. I says, 'No we're not! What the hell is this?!'"

As he joked and played with the audience, it became obvious that the Piano Man intended his last show in Houston to be a laid-back, casual engagement.

"What's this place called now, Compaq something or other?" Joel joked. "It used to be called The Summit, right? Gee, you know, and the new name has made the place change so much!"

Joel played a variety of memorable hits, including "Pressure," "Allentown," "My Life" and "Uptown Girl."

The 55-year-old entertainer mixed things up quite a bit with rocking versions of "Angry Young Man" and "The River of Dreams."

He also took things slow with "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)," "Two Thousand Years," "This is the Time," "Goodnight Saigon" and a beautiful performance of "And So It Goes."

After spending most of the evening on his rotating Baldwin grand piano, Joel left the piano stool to play a little guitar and rock the crowd even more. Before starting his own set of music, the jocular Joel began doing his best Elvis Presley impersonation as the band joined him in renditions of "Don't Be Cruel" and "Jailhouse Rock."

The band then got in the jamming mood, breaking into rock classics, including ZZ Top's "Legs," Led Zeppelin's "Good Times, Bad Times" and Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze."

Having stirred up the crowd enough, Joel broke into a rocking version of "We Didn't Start the Fire." Later, when the band began to play the opening riff to "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," Joel decided to start singing the lyrics to "Be Bop A Lula."

Joel finally segued into "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," throwing his mic stand in the air and dancing all over the stage. He then proceeded to a memorable performance of "You May Be Right" before leaving the stage.

The entertainer came back for two encores, the first being one of his classic love songs, "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant." Joel finished the show with a gorgeous rendition of "Piano Man" that included a bit of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Joel threw in many Christmas favorites throughout the course of the show, including "Silent Night," "Joy to the World," "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Sleigh Ride."

This being his last show in Texas, Joel also managed to throw in snippets of "The Eyes of Texas are Upon You" and "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

Joel chatted with the crowd between almost every song, telling stories, cracking jokes and even doing his best "Dr. Evil" (from Austin Powers) impersonation.

Throughout his 26-year recording career, Joel has always been known to sound better live than in the studio. Thursday night was no exception. Although age may have deteriorated Joel's vocal qualities in minimal proportions, the "Piano Man" can still rock an audience for nearly two-and-a-half hours.

Despite the always-poor sound quality at Compaq Center, the concert was indeed a memorable one, especially for those who have followed Joel throughout his recording career. If his decision never to tour again is indeed etched in stone, this was one hell of a way to go out.

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