Elton John and Billy Joel Live: some thoughts

Elton John and Billy Joel

Photo: By Ernst Vikne [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In the mid to late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Elton John and Billy Joel  toured together around the world. The match of the two popular music giants would have been unimaginable in the nineteen seventies and eighties as the pairing of two such mega stars was very uncommon during the years in which musical artists still actually sold records. However, the coupling of Elton John and Billy Joel made complete sense because both singer’s share pretty much the same fan base. The concerts were magnificent rock and roll pop music spectacles. Each show would open with both Elton John and Billy Joel performing together for a few songs. Each night Elton John and Billy Joel would rotate which one would play the first set while the other would play the second set. After each performer played their own usual hour long sets, they would both join each other again for a series of encores.

The performances in which Elton John and Billy Joel sang each other’s songs were what made these concerts so special. It was very exciting to hear Billy Joel sing Elton John songs like “Benny and the Jets,” “Your Song”, and the one seen here, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” It was probably even more thrilling to hear Elton John song Billy Joel’s “My Life,” and “You May Be Right.” Listening to both Elton John and Billy Joel insert their own personnel vocal phrasings to those iconic songs were the highlights of the shows.

I saw one of the shows at Madison Square Garden in New York City in the early 2000s. Elton John and Billy Joel both opened the show together. Elton John then performed his own set before Billy Joel took the stage for the second set of the night. Since it was a hometown performance for Billy Joel, it was expected that he would be playing after Elton John. As much as both performers have in common, the feel of the sets were completely different. Elton’s performance and stage presence defined the rock star charisma on a very majestic level. The aura of Elton John and his band still depicted that 1970’s Rock God essence that so many of us had grown up viewing. On the other hand, Billy Joel’s set felt more like a bar room sing along. Joel’s personality on stage felt more like the annoying neighbor next door, or the guy you would play darts with in some dingy little bar called the Viking Lounge. And that is in no way way a knock on Joel, because the crowd was completely energized by Joel’s set. The sing alongs were decidedly louder and more spirited on Joel’s music than John’s. But it was New York and Joel’s hometown base so the differences between audience reactions to the performers probably varied greatly depending on the concert location.

The concerts were immensely enjoyable for the fans of Elton John and Billy Joel and offered rare moments of artistic collaborations.  In the end, the question asked of everyone who saw these amazing shows was, “who did you like better, Elton John or Billy Joel”? Well since this is a website that is very much centered around lists, it would be no fun not to answer that question. On that night in Billy Joel’s hometown in front of a very large Billy Joel fan base going crazy over every lyric the singer sang, my choice for my favorite performer of that night would have to be……..Elton John.

Elton John and Billy Joel: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Below is a set list from one of the Elton John and Billy Joel shows. The list was taken from a great website that list the sets for millions of concerts. Check them out by clicking on the links below.

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