Billy Joel’s decades long career has mirrored other pop musicians, most notably Neil Diamond: starting out a thoughtful writer/performer churning out one great song after another, before sliding into the over-produced slickness of the late 80’s, early 90’s churning out basic, paint by number radio ready hits with little effort or thought (“The River of Dreams”), laying low for awhile and finally hitting legendary status embraced by everyone from the minivan crowd to bearded hipsters in Williamsburg (ok, maybe not the hipsters…yet).
On Live at Shea Stadium – the live concert DVD and accompanying double CD set – proves exactly how Joel earned back a bit of the respect he nearly lost in the 90s. Taken as a whole, it’s remarkable how many of his songs have managed to stand up over the years. Playing standards like “Angry Young Man” and “Captain Jack,” the songs still sound impressive (especially compared to the current offerings on top 40 radio). Joel always had a knack for cramming an entire story, well-drawn characters and all, into a 3-minute pop song, giving just as much consideration for verse as for the choruses.
One of the last concerts performed at Shea Stadium before the wrecking balls started slamming the sides of it, the show includes plenty of guests including Garth Brooks, Tony Bennett, John Mayer, Roger Daltry, John Mellencamp and Paul McCartney.
Though he’s supposedly sworn of recording pop albums ever again, I think it’s only a matter of time before Joel calls up Diamond and asks for Rick Rubin’s phone number.
Billy Joel – Live at Shea Stadium/2 CDs and 1 DVD/2011/Legacy and Columbia