Billy Joel royally rocks London on a unique 2023 European tour date

Billy Joel
Billy Joel / Jason Kempin/GettyImages

Friday, July 7, saw Billy Joel take to the stage to headline a stunning open-air festival gig right in the heart of London. 

British Summer Time Hyde Park is a series of concerts held over two or three weekends annually in London's Hyde Park. Over half a million people attend this amazing festival of gigs which takes place right in the city center of London. Oxford Street, the iconic London red double-decker buses, and the underground tube trains are all right alongside this historic Royal Park venue. 

This year's headliners included Joel, with Bruce Springsteen for the two nights on either side of the piano man, and Guns and Roses, all alongside several other top acts. Joel had Daryl Hall as his main support in a long lineup for Friday’s music.

This was a unique European gig for Joel, as it’s the only one he’ll play there this year. But what a venue to do so, and what a performance he gave. He took the crowd by surprise, and perhaps the organizers too, by playing his first notes on stage some 20 minutes before the 8.20 p.m. start time. The event mobile app warned that Joel would be on stage in 10 minutes, just as he started to play his third number, "The Entertainer," in front of the huge crowd. 

Joel has a huge array of albums and hits to play from, and he chose well for the night with an extensive set list. His piano playing was excellent, and his vocals were brilliant too. Joel joked about not expecting to have to be still hitting the top notes on “Innocent Man” in his 70s when he wrote it. 

Billy Joel and his band hit top form

Joel's band was in top form too. He gives them plenty of opportunities to shine. In addition to several music solos, there were two great crowd-pleasing vocals from percussionist Crystal Taliefero and rhythm guitarist Mike DelGuidice. Taliefero took center stage with some terrific singing on a rousing “River Deep Mountain High” breakout from Joel’s “The River Of Dreams.” 

DelGuidice has been performing “Nessus Dorma” with Joel, and he stole the crowd with another brilliant version on Friday night. An unknown guy in the audience did his own crowd stealing as he sang his heart out a few yards from me with his own brilliant and technically perfect version of the operatic classic—an amazing moment to be alongside and add to the emotions in the audience.

Joel got us all back focussed on the stage and singing out loud again, in tune or otherwise, as he followed that with his classics “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” and “Piano Man.” It was amazing to see him play these two favorites live.

Two hours after his early start we're all too soon into his encore.  Surprisingly, to me anyway, Joel has now abandoned his keyboard and is front of stage with a guitar on “We Didn’t Start The Fire” or rocking the microphone stand on “Uptown Girl” alongside special guest Joe Jonas and on “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me."

Next was “Big Shot,” followed by the Beatles' cover of “A Hard Day’s Night.” Joel had worked hard all night but seemed to enjoy himself as much as the very happy crowd. Closing the encore and the evening was “You May Be Right,” with his usual concert burst of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” in the middle, showing again his and the band’s versatility.

It’s the second time I’ve seen Joel live, both times in London. This Hyde Park festival night was every bit as good, if not better, as the Wembley Stadium gig some seven years before. If he’s back in town again, I’ll be there to see the piano man!

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