Billy Joel, the prime ‘Piano Man’

Billy Joel may be in a New York state of mind, but he had the heart of the Bay Area on Saturday at the Oracle Arena.

“Isn’t this the Oakland Coliseum?” he joked to the capacity, surprisingly multigenerational crowd on his first solo local appearance in years.

Throughout the show, he sprinkled in fun musical San Francisco references, including the famed “open your Golden Gate” theme, the Scott McKenzie song, Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and, of course, a beautiful Tony Bennett-like version of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

Having been on the road for a decade with fellow 1970s hit maker Elton John, Joel’s new show features more than his many hits — although they’re nicely represented, too.

The hefty two-hour, 20-minute concert covered the span of the 58-year-old Grammy winner’s career, seemingly missing only two big hits: “Uptown Girl” and “Just the Way You Are.”

Ingeniously paced for utmost impact, the show started off with Joel’s trademark piano sound in “Prelude/Angry Young Man,” then kicked into “My Life.”

Some of the lesser-known tunes were toward the beginning. Joel introduced “Everybody Loves You Now” from his first album “Cold Spring Harbor” and “The Entertainer,” from “Streetlight Serenade.”

The show hit a high with the saxophone-saturated, moody “New York State of Mind”; Joel’s band sounded monumental.

Joel, who in recent years has been composing instrumental music rather than pop selections, really showed off his virtuosity on “Root Beer Rag,” which, accompanied by a little light show, didn’t seem out of place.

On “An Innocent Man,” he moved away from the piano. “Don’t Ask Me Why,” “She’s Always a Woman,” “Keeping the Faith” and 1993’s “The River of Dreams” followed.

The final, rockin’ portion of the show began with a weird, oddly crowd-pleasing version of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” sung by a roadie with the band.

Thankfully, Joel came back to lead, dancing pretty well for a middle-aged guy (early in the show, he joshed, “I’m really Billy’s dad; Billy couldn’t make it tonight”) around the mike stand, with “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Big Shot,” “It’s Still Rock ’n’ Roll to Me” and “You May Be Right.”

The encore featured a majestic version of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”; he closed with his signature “Piano Man,” during which the happily sated audience sang along, in fine form.

lkatz@examiner.com

artsentertainmentOther Arts

Just Posted

California Highway Patrol officers watch as Caltrans workers remove barricades from homeless camp sites as residents are forced to relocate from a parking lot underneath Interstate 80 on Monday, May 17, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco’s broken promise to resolve homeless encampments

‘There is an idea that The City is leading with services, and they are not’

The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
Whistleblowing hasn’t worked at San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection

DBI inspectors say their boss kept them off connected builders’ projects

FILE — Mort Sahl on Nov. 10, 1967. Sahl, who confronted Eisenhower-era cultural complacency with acid stage monologues, delivering biting social commentary in the guise of a stand-up comedian and thus changing the nature of both stand-up comedy and social commentary, died on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at his home in Mill Valley, Calif., near San Francisco. He was 94. (Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times)
Legendary local comedian dies at 94

By Bruce Weber NYTimes News Service Mort Sahl, who confronted Eisenhower-era cultural… Continue reading

Sharon Van Etten (left) reached out to Angel Olsen about working on a song and they ended up releasing “Like I Used To,” which may be performed at Outside Lands. (Photo by Dana Trippe)
Performers’ emotions are high as Outside Lands returns to San Francisco

Festival features Sharon Van Etten and Boy Scouts alongside The Strokes, Lizzo and Tame Impala

Most Read