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Billy Joel Live In Manchester Gig Review

November 1, 2013


Manchester Arena, 29th November 2013 (Gig)

The Piano Man made his return to Manchester Arena for the first time in seven years with a fantastic two hour performance this Tuesday. I’m not sure if I preferred his previous visit, though, primarily because of the setlist, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the show. He opened with ‘Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)’ and ‘Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)’, two fan favourites, and it was obvious from the get-go that the night was going to be special. I was a bit concerned about his voice having seen YouTube footage of his performance at the New Orleans Jazz Festival earlier in the year but Joel immediately squashed my doubts as his voice was in fine shape. Sure, his backing musicians helped with the higher notes but Joel’s vocals have lost none of their depth and power. He is 64, after all.

The stage was simple and different from his last gig in Manchester. The previous tour had a second piano on a higher tier and two keyboards for Joel at both ends, and the seats around the whole stage were open to the fans, but this time he had just the one piano, and a large screen as a backdrop thus covering the back of the stage. Possibly due to his two hip replacements Joel stayed seated throughout the whole set aside from the first three songs of the encore. I thought he would have stood up for ‘Uptown Girl’, a song he only plays outside of the US and dreads performing because it stretches his vocal chords, but he didn’t. Nevertheless, though I can’t stand listening to ‘Uptown Girl’ it sounded brilliant.

There’s no doubt that the 18,000 strong audience wanted to hear his pop hits but like Joel himself and his more ardent fans I wanted to hear the obscure stuff so I was more than thrilled when he played ‘Where’s The Orchestra?’ and ‘A Room Of Our Own’ from his final masterpiece ‘The Nylon Curtain’. He also played ‘Zanzibar’ and ‘Vienna’, two lesser known songs which he’s been playing for a few years now and can be heard on the excellent ’12 Gardens’ double live CD. Though I enjoyed his last album ‘River Of Dreams’ I think three songs (the title-track, which is kind of obligatory, and ‘The Great Wall Of China’ and ‘Blonde Over Blue’) was a bit too much.

Sadly, he didn’t play ‘My Life’, ‘Honesty’ or ‘Summer Highland Falls’. I would have loved to have heard ‘Streetlife Serenader’, ‘She’s Just A Fantasy’ and ‘The Stranger’, too, but you can’t have everything. He’s written over 100 songs so it’s inevitable some fans would be disappointed. Joel has always favoured playing the obscure stuff; it probably keeps him interested after decades on the road. He changes the setlist most nights, too, which is one reason why he’d probably never tour with Elton Joel again as he recently said the tours they did together were simply the greatest hits and Joel detests that. It becomes predictable and boring. He also performed ‘She’s Always A Woman’ but perhaps British fans would have preferred ‘Just The Way You Are’ which he dusted off in Manchester in 2007?

He really did shake up the setlist with other classics missing from the set, including ‘Angry Young Man’, ‘I Go To Extremes’, ‘The Ballad Of Billy The Kid’ and ‘Keep The Faith’ but most of us have heard those songs enough times to appreciate the lesser played tunes. On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and hope that it won’t be another seven years before he makes a return trip. (But I’m not betting on it!)


‘Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)’

‘Movin Out’ (Anthony’s Song)’

‘Everybody Loves You Now’

‘Where’s The Orchestra?’


‘A Room Of Our Own’

‘New York State Of Mind’

‘The Great Wall Of China’



‘Uptown Girl’

‘Don’t Ask Me Why’

‘She’s Always A Woman’

‘Blonde Over Blue’

‘Scenes From An Italian Restaurant’

‘The River Of Dreams’

‘Piano Man’


‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’

‘It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me’

‘You May Be Right’

‘Only The Good Die Young’

One Comment
  1. your review spot on, i don’t claim to be any sort of critic just a fan of 30 years. but this concert was brilliant except for the audience!!! I was seated on the floor 6 rows back from the front, and as soon as he started to sing my natural reaction was to stand up and dance, but i was quickly told to sit down by an elderley fan behind me. maybe some of the audience should have gone to see a shakespere theatre play if they wanted to sit down throughout the whole concert. I wonder what would billy be happy with ??? the sit down crowd or the interaction of appreciative fans ?


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