THE PIANO MEN HIT A HOME RUN AT NATIONALS PARK

ELTON-JOHN-BILLY-JOEL

Typically in an event on a baseball field, early errors cost you.

But when it’s two rock idols on the field, you rally, and you win.

Elton John and Billy Joel both played center field at Nationals Park on Saturday night, and despite an epic equipment malfunction, it all fell into place, because hey, you know what, they still got the chops. These two guaranteed Rock and Roll Hall of Famers pieced together a truly wondrous collection of piano-fueled rock classics proving that these days with the right kind of double bills coupled with the right kind of material, you clearly get what you paid for, and more.

After the two piano legends opened the show at dueling rising pianos, playing Face To Face (the tour’s moniker) versions of John’s Your Song and Joel’s Just The Way You Are, a jammed piano pedal on John’s piano halted the proceedings. As his is nature, Joel kept things light by playing filler tunes like Glory Glory Hallellujah and Yankee Doodle Dandy, and even crawling under John’s piano himself to try and fix the problem, see the picture I took below of him crawling out after doing his best repairman act. Joel even said, “This is king sized f–k up”, but to this adoring crowd, even a stuck pedal couldn’t phase their excitement.

BILLY

John stewed long enough, ultimately dissapearing underneath the stage and giving way to Joel’s truly excellent band, which launched into a rousing Angry Young Man that made the crowd forget the stuck pedal and remember why they were here: to hear truly legendary piano-driven rock music. Joel’s letter perfect versions of Movin Out, Allentown (the unemployment-related tune that Joel prefaced by saying how “very happy we are to have a job”), She’s Always A Woman and Don’t Ask Me Why were followed by an utterly gorgeous version of his epic Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, which seemed to render everything before or after irrelevant. Joel’s tender and pointed anthem of dating, marriage and it’s aftermath, highlighted by the touches of ace saxophonist and veteran Joel bandmember Mark Rivera, was delivered in utterly perfect homage to it’s vinyl (yes vinyl!) original, with the crowd reciting verbatum the exploits of Brenda and Eddie and the innocent beauty of yeah, that sweet little Italian restaurant.

elton j nats

Later, John let his earlier frustration peel off, delivering a stirring solo set of his own, opening with the Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding prologue from his defining album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, then getting the Saturday night crowd going with Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting. John then delved into a fabulous Burn Down The Mission and Tiny Dancer. The high fives and dancing bodies witnessed during these two epic songs reinforced his place in the hearts of those who hold John in a position of revery.

A high point of John’s set was a stellar version of his FM hit Rocket Man, with an extended jam that illustrated his willingness to let his band of flawless musicians show their best. It was a smart move by John and it clearly paid off.

The two masters returned to the stage for their “encore” and threw out remarkably adept duet versions of John’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me and a singalong finale with Joel’s Piano Man, that reminded the audience of the magnitude of these two tremendously talented guy’s influence on modern rock music.

Say what you will about 60 year olds still trying to conjure up rock and roll memories…amidst the field of dreams where the Nats continue to struggle this summer, several home runs were hit and many musical dreams were realized tonight by these two unabating music legends.

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