We are grateful to Margaret Quamme at The Columbis Dispatch for a thorough report on the Elton and Billy Joel Nationwide Arena show in Columbus, Ohio, on April 22, 2003. We reproduce in full the report of April 23, 2003:
They look portly and amiably avuncular, but Elton John and Billy Joel still seem comfortable at the edge where pop meets rock. Although their voices have settled into comfortably growly lower ranges and they spent most of last night's joint concert at Nationwide Arena seated firmly on piano stools, they played and sang easily and enthusiastically.
The concert began with the two facing each other at grand pianos, alternating verses from a few of their greatest hits. Joel wore basic black, and John a scarlet suit with sunglasses.
"This is a song that I wrote for my first ex-wife, so what the hell do I know?'' Joel said in introducing Just the Way You Are.
"This is a song that I wrote for my first ex-husband,'' John replied, introducing Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me.
Their easy rapport was sometimes lost in the semipsychedelic lighting, which emphasized shocking yellows and flourescent greens, as well as overly literal effects such as light simulating a sun setting.
Audience members not already familiar with the words to the songs might also have been lost, because the clarity of the singers' voices was dampened by bass and percussion-heavy background music.
But most of the audience, largely contemporaries of Joel and John, seemed to know what to expect, and applauded at the first chords of a song. But probably the most enthusiastic response of the evening was allotted to Joel's inclusion of Hang On Sloopy, which he interjected into River of Dreams.
After the introductory duets, Joel's piano sunk beneath the stage, and John took over. Although he played a couple of newer songs -- The Wasteland and I Want Love -- most of his set was devoted to older hits such as Philadelphia Freedom and Tiny Dancer, which he dedicated to singer Nina Simone, who died Monday.
John's voice may not be as ethereal as it once was, but he compensates for its earthiness with his piano playing, which takes off with the energy of the blues. In a bravura performance of Rocket Man, he took off from a reiteration of the theme to tear into long bluesy riffs.
John's set was followed by one by Joel, whose music didn't translate as easily into the gussied-up format as John's did. Joel seemed most at ease when he could get away from the keyboard. His version of Innocent Man had corrosive sincerity, as he nearly wrapped himself around the microphone stand. In contrast, an uptempo interpretation of Allentown didn't make dramatic sense, and the simple storytelling of Scenes from an Italian Restaurant was drowned by dueling saxophones.
Lack of energy was not a problem for either of the musicians. When deadline called, Joel was still going strong.
Full stage activity report:
1) Pre-recorded Intro Music Overture/
Yankee Doodle (Billy ENTERS)
The British Grenadiers (Elton ENTERS)
2) Your Song
3) Just The Way You Are - (With John Mahon On Percussion)
Elton's BAND ENTERS
4) Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me
Billy EXITS ELTONS SET
5) Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
6) Someone Saved My Life Tonight
7) Philadelphia Freedom
9) I Want Love
10) Rocket Man
11) I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues
----------Elton INTRODUCES BAND MEMBERS---------
12) Take Me To The Pilot
13) Tiny Dancer
14) Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting
15) Crocodile Rock
Elton & BAND EXIT/
Billy's BAND ENTERS BILLYS SET
16) Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
17) Movin' Out
18) Prelude / Angry Young Man
20) An Innocent Man
21) River Of Dreams / Hang On Snoopy
---------- BJ INTRODUCES BAND MEMBERS------------
22) New York State Of Mind
23) It's Still Rock 'N Roll To Me
24) Only The Good Die Young
Billy & BAND EXIT AND RETURN WITH Elton
25) My Life (Billys Band with Nigel from EJs Band)
(REMAINING MEMBERS OF Elton's BAND ENTER)
26) The Bitch Is Back
27) You May Be Right
28) Bennie And The Jets
29) Hard Day's Night
30) Great Balls Of Fire
Elton & Billy EXIT WITH THEIR BANDS/
Elton & Billy RETURN BY THEMSELVES FOR ENCORE
31) Piano Man
Red denotes a change of artist on stage