All was dark in the huge arena; the nearly 16,000 member crowd was hushed; the two slick, black grand pianos sounded a heavy chord into the waiting air. The spotlights turned on, trained on the men on piano stools as the concert began, echoing throughout Energy Solutions Arena. Billy Joel and Elton John sat face to face, as the concert started immediately with classics like “Don’t Let Sun Go Down on Me” which was accompanied by blinding red and orange spotlights.
They harmonized perfectly, vocally and on the piano. They sang separately, and then too, they were pitch-perfect.
After the opening Elton John remained on stage, the sequins on his jacket glittered beneath the many automated lights that changed from magenta to emerald to sapphire to vermillion. He played favorites from “Rocket Man” too. Even the first few notes received raucous cheers as the audience recognized each song. John’s air guitar moment was pretty entertaining.
After an hour or so passed, John finished his last song, and the cheers finally died down. The stage was re-set; heralding earsplitting applause Billy Joel came onstage. The audience remained on their feet during his performances of classics like “Moving Out,” “Still Rock and Roll to Me,” and lesser known pieces like “Zanzibar.” The audience clapped, sang along and jammed out. Watching the drunken dancing from a few of the audience members who proclaimed they were fans, “For thirty years, man,” was quite a site too. On some of the softer ballads like “Always a Woman to Me” couples slow danced, others pulled out cell phones and swayed them back and forth to the beat, lighting the dark stadium seats like stars. After his piano was lowered into the stage, Joel was brought out an acoustic guitar. He played the guitar during songs including “They Started the Fire.”
After finishing “She’s Got a Way About Her” Billy Joel said into the mic, “And shortly after we got divorced.” Joel also mentioned the fact he’d toured through Salt Lake since the 70’s, playing at the Salt Palace and the Osmond’s studio. Joel admitted he wasn’t interested in Donny Osmond, just Marie.
“I always wanted to mess her up…she just looked so clean.” Joel confessed jokingly.
After his hour long performance, the final note played, Elton John returned on stage and the audience erupted into even louder applause. Joel and John bowed to each other before embracing then filing back behind their pianos. Playing together, again, they performed “Uptown Girl,” “Candle in the Wind,” and “Benny and the Jets” among others. To close, the two sang “The Piano Man.”
During the song, the music onstage was silenced; the microphones were turned toward the audience to sing the well-known lines, all 16,000 as one. When the band took over again, the audience cheered proudly.
After the final note played, the two musicians stood, took their bows and finally left. When the stage emptied, the eagerly waiting guests who’d hoped for one last song left too.
Though both men are in their early sixties, their voices are still big, loud and strong. There was never a moment when their voices were weak or off pitch. Some of the words were a little hard to make out completely, though. However, the audience, ranging from late teens to senior citizens, consisted only of avid fans, all devoted to the music of these multi-talented mega stars. They knew all the words by heart. Every song ushered the audience into standing ovations; the finale was an earsplitting explosion of cheers, whoops, whistles and applause.
The few hours Billy Joel and Elton John hit Salt Lake City made for a memorable night of musicianship and brilliant, well-loved songs.