Review: Billy Joel Albums Show at the Lowry

todayTuesday 17 October

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Elio Pace and his band were joined on stage by Rhys Clark and Don Evans – Billy Joel’s original band members

It must be rare for an artist to perform two albums live – back to back – in their entirety and in sequence order.

Most album releases contain a “filler” track or two – a track that isn’t particularly noteworthy.  And some tracks are so over-produced, it’s near impossible for them to be recreated live on stage.

But we are talking Billy Joel here – the Piano Man from the Bronx who released 12 albums over his award-winning career.  

It would be fair to say that there’s no filler tracks in his catalogue – but there’s certainly much variation.  One minute you can be bopping along to the likes of Uptown Girl.  The next, be listening to a classical interlude; a rock anthem – or having a smooch to one of his love songs.

It’s one thing  an artist performing two entire albums back to back on stage – but how about an artist performing all twelve albums over a series of six tours, making history in the process?

That’s exactly what Elio Pace set out to do – alongside his hugely successful Billy Joel Songbook® tour, which has been thrilling audiences worldwide for more than ten years.

On Sunday, a packed out Lowry in Salford were treated to the sixth and final instalment of the Albums Show – as Elio and his band performed Billy Joel’s first album Cold Spring Harbor and his last, River of Dreams.

But this time, Elio’s band featured two special guests direct from the USA.  Drummer Rhys Clark and Guitarist, Don Evans – two of Billy Joel’s original band members who worked with him from 1971 to 1975.

Billy Joel Albums Show Elio Pace
Rhys Clark & Don Evans

Cold Spring Harbor is Billy Joel’s earliest work from 1971 – and largely unknown or overlooked, other than by true hardcore Joel fans.

It contains ten tracks – all are good quality in their own right; typical Joel compositions which are somehow simple but complex at the same time – but there’s nothing here that would have excited the top 10 at the time.

Commercial success was just around the corner however, with the live Sigma Radio Concert, leading to his signing with Columbia.

But it is fair to say that Cold Spring Harbor is certainly a landmark album which did showcase the potential of Billy Joel and his future success.

The original album from 1971 interestingly, is slightly different to the re-released (perhaps inferior) versions of the 1980’s – a point worth noting.

But back to Sunday.  Though there were no hits in part one – Elio and his special guests absolutely had the audience hooked.  A rock-solid and tight performance with loud applause and standing ovations along the way.

And although some/many/all of the songs would be “new” to some of the audience – the true musicianship and chemistry on stage ensured that they were a delight to listen to.

You could quite clearly see how delighted Rhys and Don were to be performing these deep cuts live on stage after so many years.

Unlike the high-energy Billy Joel Songbook®, the Albums show is a more relaxed, intimate performance – and we were treated to a short Q&A section, where both Rhys and Don gave an insight in to the early days of Billy Joel.

Who would have thought that when Rhys got married – Billy Joel was his best man!

An incredible and historical first half!

A short break and straight into River of Dreams.  Billy Joel’s final album from 1993.

Incredibly, there’s only one hit here (the title track) with the A Side being “Angry” – quite rocky with hard-cutting lyrics and the B Side, a bit more usual Joel.

This album came at a time when Billy discovered his long-time Manager had done him out of about $80 million – and he really wasn’t happy – hence the “Angry” side.

At the time, Billy vowed it would be “his last words” – his last album – something he has since kept to, much to the dismay of fans.

The second half featured Elio’s incredibly talented band including a rare appearance of Amy Rhiannon Worth (D Day Darlings, Billy Elliot) on vocals and percussion and Country Great, Mr Telecaster Tom Wright on Guitar.

The band didn’t miss a beat and tightly performed the tracks with incredible passion and perfection.

The amount of talent on the stage was immense.  Lining up this quality would be a challenge for most artists – but luckily there’s a long list of musicians who dream of sharing the stage with Elio – who over the years, has worked with some of the greatest.

Elio Pace is truly the UK’s very own Piano Man.  Yes, today he’s known around the world for his association with Billy Joel – but he’s an incredible singer/songwriter in his own right.  He plays the piano quite well too!

The grand finale of the evening resulted in Rhys Clark and Don Evans back on stage, performing Captain Jack (the full version with a naughty word that delighted fans!) to a prolonged standing ovation.

Captain Jack was the song which brought Billy Joel to Clive Davis of Columbia.  Not included on Cold Spring Harbor – it was a cut from the Sigma radio performance which opened the door.

As Rhys said “We had a big hit record, without a record”.

The night was five star for sure.  An incredible performance which will go down in history!

The Albums show continues for a few more dates – and the Billy Joel Songbook® tour commences with dates in Germany and the UK from February 2024.  Find out more at the official Elio Pace website.

Written by: ian

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