February 23, 2008
The WSA show is traditionally the place to see what’s going on in footwear. It’s in Las Vegas, so it’s also a good place to see the very latest in gold and lace. Unfortunately most of the styles, ethics, and technologies of the show were more frumpy than fresh. So it was no real surpise to see that the show was sponsoring a “Memorable Evening with Billy Joel.”
What was shocking was to greet my friend Julie early that morning and for her to comment that ol’ Billy and I looked similar. Like a good friend she spent the rest of the day finding reasons why I shouldn’t be offended, but her attempts were giving me a Heart Attack-ack-ack.
Cluelessly, haphazzardly and surprisingly, Julie and I somehow ended up with free tickets to the Billy Joel show hours before it started. This was followed by free flowers, drinks, pasta chefs and for some reason taxi cabs with their open trunks full of desserts.
Now I was weaned on some Billy Joel, so there’s a soft spot there for me. He’s a great songwriter and musician, but his music is more akin to memorabilia these days. So it was nice to see that Billy Joel still sang with incredible power and control. I was happy to see that he was using musicians from his native New York and they were interspersing some obligatory hits like “New York State of Mind” and “She’s Always a Woman to Me” with some obscure parts of his catalog including a comedic version of “Root Beer Rag.” Meanwhile Joel’s banter was as frank and down-to-earth as he ever was.
But then came the truly memorable part: Billy Joel mentioned that a guitar tech of the road crew had tried out for American Idol but was denied for not being “TV friendly” enough. So Joel announced it was time to give this guy some well-deserved audience. He announced that we would be hearing a “spiritual” then strapped on an electric guitar, and introduced his roadie, “Chainsaw”.
Chainsaw was a large man with long curly hair sporting the obligatory backstage gear of black jeans and leather vest. He instantly got the crowd out of their seats for the first time with his shrilly appeal to get ready to rock and then ripped into a blistering version of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” He had the arena rocking harder than anything else that happened that show.
And that’s when I was hit with a whole wall of respect for Mr. Joel. Any musician who would support his road guy to this extent is a man who is more about the true magic of music than about ego. All of a sudden, being compared to Billy Joel was a bit easier to take.