Billy Joel is an American music icon. The piano playing singer/songwriter has sold 150 million albums worldwide, has won numerous Grammys, has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
Joel's "Greatest Hits Volumes I & II" double album is the fifth best seller of all time. His songs are playlist staples of radio stations across the nation with such classics as "My Life," "Piano Man," "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," "You May Be Right," "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" and "Only the Good Die Young."
With that kind of critical and commercial success, some may think Joel would want to keep the momentum going. But the laid-back, dry-witted Joel, who uses the same self-deprecating humor during interviews that he demonstrates onstage, told the Deseret Morning News that it's probably time for someone else to be the rock star.
"I do have a love for songs, but I may not be the guy to do them," Joel said by phone during a tour stop in California. "I'm not so much interested in me singing it. I'm quite aware of my physical limitations ... my hair is gone, I don't look like a rock star. I'm kind of tired of Billy Joel's voice, too. I've had my day in the sun."
Joel said he's much more interested right now in composing instrumentals, such as his 2001 album "Fantasies and Delusions." If he were to write rock songs again, Joel said he would prefer to do it for unknown artists trying to get their feet wet in the music world.
Joel hasn't written an entire album of new pop/rock material since 1993's "River of Dreams." But, of course, with his resume, he doesn't need to.
The 58-year-old Long Island native remains a huge concert draw. This is partly because his music and lyrics still resonate with fans and with the same youthfulness they had in the 1970s and '80s. And partly because despite how Joel commonly pokes fun at his age and his looks ("I should be heard and not seen; bring your sunglasses or blinders") his voice has aged like a fine wine.
For the past several years, Joel has teamed up with Elton John for the ongoing, highly successful "Face to Face" tour. But in 2005, Joel decided it was time to hit the road again by himself. Next week will mark the Piano Man's first solo trip to Salt Lake City since 1999. "We hadn't toured on our own for quite a long time. We put our toe in the water a year-and-a-half ago, and there seemed to be a demand for tickets."
The tours with John became greatest-hits shows, each artist knowing that if he didn't bring his A game to the floor, he risked being overshadowed by his legendary counterpart. Now, back on the road on his own, Joel has the chance to dust off a few of his deeper tracks, such as "Zanzibar," from the "52nd Street" album. "We haven't done 'Zanzibar' for years. When (the band) first starts the song, most people are like, 'What the hell song is that?' But by the time it ends everyone is on their feet."
Joel has also been giving audiences a chance to vote during concerts by show of hands for rarities to play. On this tour, Joel has dug back into his earliest albums including "Streetlife Serenade," "Turnstiles" and even his first album, "Cold Spring Harbor."
But he also knows most fans are paying the big bucks to hear the hits. "The problem with doing too many obscurities is there are too many bathroom breaks. You can't have an overpreponderance of obscurities."
Because of that, there are still plenty of the hits from "Glass Houses," "The Stranger" and "Storm Front" on the current tour. But for the crowd to get the most out of the concert experience, Joel encourages people to get involved."I don't know how much people are aware how much a part of the show the audience is. I think the audience is 50 percent of the show. They may not know it. It's feeding off the energy between the band and audience. It's back and forth and back and forth."
If you go . . .
What: Billy Joel
Where: EnergySolutions Arena
When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
How much: $25 - $95
Phone: 325-7328Web: www.ticketmaster.com
E-mail: [email protected]