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Elton John World News: At last! Elton & Billy back on the Road! Where to Now St Peter?

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Postponed shows debut in St Petersburg

Sunday 15 September 2002 @ 22:12 - GMT

Superstars Elton John and Billy Joel on September 13, 2002, made good on the promise from March to return to the St. Pete Times Forum, much to the delight of a sellout crowd of 20,898, reported the St Petersburg Times on September 14, 2002.

The duo had postponed the second of two scheduled shows on their Face To Face tour. Friday's performance mostly mimicked the duo's last and was as wonderful. Both stars, dressed in dapper black suits, emerged together, hamming it up and sharing lead vocal turns on hits by both (Your Song, Just The Way You Are and Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me) while sitting at grand pianos.

Billy then left the stage to Elton, who plucked from his three-decade catalogue of hits. The early tunes sounded fresh, even the sizzling Love Lies Bleeding gussied up by Davey Johnstone's oh-so-1970s acidy guitar. (Johnstone's Honky Chateau-era hairdo also helped set the mood.)

Elton's sweeping piano and gritty, heartfelt vocal on Someone Saved My Life Tonight gave the song even more oomph than what we hear on the radio. Elton's material from last year's Songs From the West Coast is just as strong. The powerful I Want Love was a plea for folks of different sexual orientations to accept each other.

With lyrics by his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, Elton's tunes feature characters we know like we know our friends: ol' skirt-chasing Benny, the messianic Levon, and the gleefully nostalgic man of Crocodile Rock, recalling all the fun with Suzy. That song had fans dancing in the aisles.

The folks in Billy's songs are a bit angrier and their stories filled with disillusion. Indeed, Billy sings through gritted teeth. Without so much as a missed beat, Elton's piano was whisked away and Billy was onstage. Billy was a powerhouse, pummeling through Angry Young Man, Allentown and, after apologising for the postponement, Movin' Out, his famous song about Anthony itching to get out of Mama's house.

Billy's stage patter is rife with self-deprecation; he introduced one sad song as an "ode to manic depression," and soon after performed the buoyant, calypso-tinged The River Of Dreams -- wryly demonstrating his own moodswings, made famous on I Go To Extremes.

Fans cheered the sublime New York State Of Mind, so resonant post-Sept. 11. Billy's saxophonist sported an NYPD cap, teasing fans with the opening strains of New York, New York.

The duo joined again -- with Elton now in a bright red suit and Billy relaxed in shirtsleeves -- for a hit-filled encore featuring My Life, You May Be Right, Benny and the Jets, Piano Man and Candle In The Wind -- yes, they played it this time. Fans also got electrifying romps through the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, and one of rock 'n' roll's earliest hits, Jerry Lee Lewis' Great Balls Of Fire.

Billy returned to the concert stage with a solid performance that showed he has put the turbulent last six months behind him. "I'm back, I'm back," Billy told the sellout, before breaking into his classic Movin' Out.

"I apologise for the delay. ... I got sick. Thanks for waiting around."

Billy postponed a tour stop with Elton John in Tampa in March due to a severe respiratory infection and laryngitis. That illness also led to the postponing of several New York shows in March, after Billy struggled through a Madison Square Garden concert during which he made some incoherent statements.

After battling the respiratory problems, Billy said he felt he'd grown too dependent on alcohol and in June checked into Silver Hill Hospital, a rehab facility in New Canaan, Connecticut., days after he was slightly hurt in a serious one-car crash in Sag Harbor.

On stage, Billy, 53, made no mention of his stint in rehab or his other recent troubles. Aside from a knowing glance at the audience when he sang "I don't want you to worry for me 'cause I'm all right" during My Life, Billy left his personal battles backstage.

Elton only referred to the problems in passing, saying, "I'm so sorry to have you wait so long, but things happened. We're here to make up for lost time."

Though early on he ended the dramatic, piano-intensive Prelude/Angry Young Man by nervously shaking his fingers, by the time Billy reached I Go to Extremes he was clearly enjoying himself, kicking over stools and pounding piano keys with his behind.

Elton also tried to keep things light, causing the sole flub of the evening during You May Be Right, when Billy stopped singing to laugh as Elton tickled him. Billy's current hit-filled set is similar to the one he used early in the tour. As well as New York State of Mind, Billy performed Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway), a science fiction tale about New York's destruction that after the terrorist attacks strikes close to home. Billy and Elton's "Face to Face Tour" returns to New York on September 23, 2002, to begin a string of make-up dates for shows cancelled in March. After an initial Madison Square Garden concert, the tour moves to Nassau Coliseum for four shows starting September 25, 2002.