Sirius XM Satellite Radio launched the Billy Joel Channel a couple weeks ago and I have been in musical heaven. His music has been such a strong part of my life since the 70’s, really. I remember the family vacations and road trips in the 80’s when we finally figured out that everybody likes Billy Joel, and no one needs to suffer through the other generation’s music choices. (I enjoy many styles of music, but when my father’s favorite Willie Nelson and my mother’s favorite Julio Iglesias sang a duet- that was too much for my teenage sister and I to handle.) His classical affinity shines through his melodic rock, and his lyrics are so poignant. (More about Billy Joel’s music here.)
When I was a teen, we would watch the videotape “Billy Joel Live from Long Island” on VHS over and over. To be honest, we probably rented it from the video store next to 31 Flavors, and likely copied it onto Beta. This is still one of my all-time favorite concerts to watch: such entertainment and skill, a great collection of songs, a fantastic band. A percussionist who actually played a lead pipe with a hammer. This video hasn’t been properly converted to DVD, but I just picked up a used VHS on amazon.com , so I could show my kids. (Yes, I still have two working VCR‘s – I run my upstairs DirecTV through my VCR so I can tape more shows.)
My son is now playing percussion in high school band, as I did. He plays glockenspiel, snare drum and tympani, and accessory percussion, which is so much fun! (I still have a box of fun percussion instruments from when I used to be a travelling piano teacher. But somehow I seem to have lost my vibraslap. I wonder if my last church choir job still has it. Although I can’t see how they would use it in their liturgy.) He’s playing a lot of Triangle right now. I told him about the time I sight read a triangle part in a Christmas medley, stressing out about counting the rhythm correctly, before I had figured out that it was “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (really a random medley, that wasn’t even one of the official carols in the medley, they just snuck it in the triangle part.) 3, 1, 2-and 3-and, 1, 2, 3-and, Roll, (2, 3,) 1. (mute)
I told him about how at one of the Billy Joel concerts I attended in the 90’s, there was this fabulous auxiliary percussionist. She was so awesome, I wanted to be her when I grew up. She played all the percussion, saxophones, and she even sang vocals, belting out the high notes. And I told my son she had the most epic triangle solo, ever.
Billy Joel has always been great about using the lighting for effect in his concerts. There are a couple of songs just screaming for this, and it works brilliantly. In “You May Be Right,” there is the lyric “turn off the lights…” and for a split second the entire stadium is pitch black. It’s wonderful. There are also songs in which he stops in the middle, before continuing again. “All for Leyna” contains such a stop, in it, all the instruments drop out as Billy sings/shouts “STOP!” – very effective! “River of Dreams” has a natural break in the middle, which Billy is prone to elongate, heck, even sing another song in the middle of this break.
So in “An Innocent Man,” the quiet calypso has a sweet, constant triangle: Ding, Di-Ding… On the Billy Joel Channel I have heard a live version with the fabulous Crystal Taliefero singing the “I AM….” triumphantly, as I remember seeing it in concert. (The video I found on YouTube has Billy singing the entire chorus.) After the bridge, the stadium is again drenched in darkness, all except for a single spotlight shining on Ms. Taliefero as she plays her Triangle in all its glory.