Monday, February 19, 2007

Lounge Lizard Man Spotted Crooning in Columbia

By Coleman St-Genesius

Several months back, I had a terrible nightmare. I dreamed my partner was begging me to attend a Billy Joel concert. I emphatically declined, as I had no desire to spend two hours packed in an elevator, which is the only place I’ve heard Billy Joel tunes in the past decade.

However, my incubus was real: My partner had purchased tickets online for himself and several other Billy Joel fanatics at 6 a.m. on a Saturday. A week later I learned that the concert was on Valentine’s Day. Geez, if I had known the event was on our national day of love, I probably would have been willing to succumb to several hours of tepid lounge music just to be with my valentine sweetie. So I told my partner to get me a ticket, which he did: three sections away from his B.J. posse. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

If you took all the piano entertainers the world over, from John Tesh to Liberace, and put them in a blender, the result would be Billy Joel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’re not talking Kenny G-level entertainment. But it’s not Green Day, either.

Except for the Colonial Center staff, there wasn’t a single person of color in attendance. Being surrounded by 8,000 middle-aged WASPS is a rather odd sociological experience, especially when one witnesses thousands of Caucasians attempting to clap in unison.

Mr. Joel hardly strayed from his standard of collected hits, including the extraordinarily annoying, but historically-motivating, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “The River of Dream,” which has always struck me as plagiaristic knockoff of the ’50s hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

When the pianomeister fired up “The River of Dreams,” I found it necessary to leave my seat and wander the Colonial Center. (To be honest, I didn’t want to barf on the two teenage bimbos in front of me, whose banshee screams reminded me of something from The Simpsons’ annual Halloween episode.) Like a Dante in music Purgatory, I stumbled in circles, passing cotton candy booths and $50 T-shirt vendors, wiping the drool from my mouth that was caused from a barely audible rendition of “My Life,” when I heard the unexpected opening riffs of a truly classic rock-and-roll tune.

I rushed back to my seat and found myself shouting insanely for an unknown, fat Joel groupie named Chainsaw, who torched the stage with a white-hot cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” This was far and away the highlight of the night, but things quickly returned to their lukewarm state, as Mr. Joel followed with a ludicrous rap version of “Big Shot,” wherein he nearly decapitated his saxophonist with his microphone stand. (Joel might be a New York Jew, but he’s certainly no Beastie Boy.)

Actually, one has to give Billy Joel some credit. Most lounge lizards would slough their skins at the thought of being upstaged by a groupie. But Mr. Joel is impressively comfortable with himself: He spent half his concert making self-effacing remarks about his panus and balding pate. Of course, he made no excuses for his music.

Don’t get me wrong: How many pop musicians credit Aaron Copland, Beethoven and Chopin as inspirations? Billy Joel is an accomplished pianist, and despite the fact that he has some amazing musicians on the stage—especially the trumpeter, whose solo on the Joel attic song “Zanzibar” was pure music heaven—I’d have found the whole evening more tolerable if the stage was just a piano and piano man…and a wet bar.

As expected, the concert concluded with “Piano Man,” which, no matter what you think of Billy Joel, is an American classic lounge song. Of course, for my money I would have rather seen Sammy Davis Jr. belt out “Mister Bojangles.”

Did I mention Harry Connick Jr. is playing at the Township Auditorium in March?

Where have all the Sammy’s gone?

Billy Joel appeared in concert at the Colonial Center on February 14.


Anonymous said...

Judging by your comments, it's obvious you need to have a better understanding of rock music and related terms. I have taken the time to post a few definitions about the "unknown" you admired.

road·ie –noun Slang. a member of a crew for a traveling group of musicians or other entertainers.

group·ie –noun Informal. 1. a young person, esp. a teenage girl, who is an ardent admirer of rock musicians and may follow them on tour.

Last time I checked, while torching the stage with his white hot cover, Chainsaw looked nothing like a groupie. In addition to being ignorant, you are insulting to everyone. One of the things that is great about Billy Joel is not only his amazing music but his ability to let his band and crew shine. Next time, let your partner go without you and give the seat to someone who can appreciate the show. Grow up or stay home.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

The great BJ himself referred to Chainsaw as a groupie. So your comments about my ignorance must vicariously pass onto the lap of the great pianist himself, your lounge lizard idol.

The only thing I saw shine that evening was a flugelhorn and BJ's alopeciac head.


p.s. There were about 4,000 empty seats that night. I guess no one else wanted to appreciate the show.

Anonymous said...

First off you said that it was old middle aged wasps. them you mrntioned teenaged bimbos. You are just a negative person who would only be happy if it was you on stage. You sound very jelous and petty. Did your partner not show you enough attention on Valentines day or would Cher tickets been more your idea of a good time. Get a life, and some taste in music.

Anonymous said...

Number one: Learn how to spell.

Number two: Learn how to read.

Number three: The median age at the concert was no less than 40.

Number four: That allows for two teenage bimbos with banshee voices.

Number five: Cher sucks, too.

Number six: I do perform on stage, and can actually appreciate the difficulty of such.

Number seven: Thank God it wasn't you on the stage, or 8,000 Columbians would have died of sheer boredom that evening.


Anonymous said...

I dig Billy Joel. Grat performer, great song writer. He had a motorcylce accident a few years back, and I get the impression his piano playing suffered since then. I've only seen a few video clips of him playing since then, so I'm not sure. but I would see him live despite this review. I'm probably a bit of an old lounge lizzard myself though.