Review: The Billy Joel Songbook

Lifestyle / Thu 2nd Apr 2015 at 10:04am

Ellio Pace and his Band

By Martin Elven

ALTHOUGH my first love is loud, long haired rock music, my musical tastes are pretty eclectic and run the whole gamut from opera to death metal. In amongst that, I’ve always had a soft spot for singer/songwriters, especially those who have the ability to conjure up an miniature movie in the mind’s eye via the lyrics of a song. Of those, Billy Joel is one of the masters.

Elio Pace obviously concurs. A self confessed Billy Joel fanatic for over 30 years, he enhances his more than passing resemblance to the latter years Joel by mimicking his attire and closely replicating his vocal style. Surrounded by a consummate band of musicians, his love for his hero is obvious, and for two and a half hours Elio reminds us that there is more to Billy Joel than Uptown Girl and being Christie Brinkley’s ex husband – not that the disappointingly small crowd need much reminding.

To Elio’s credit, he abides by the adage “play every gig like you’re headlining Wembley”, interspersing the songs with anecdotes and tales of Joel’s career and culminating with the audience finally getting to their feet and joining in with the slightly under choreographed dancing.

There are some notable omissions to the set list, namely Vienna and Leningrad, although these both make a brief appearance in a section displaying how Joel wrote a sizeable chunk of his repertoire with a classical music structure. None of this, however, dissuades the diehards in the crowd from affording the part tribute act, part homage to a hero, a deserved standing ovation.

Given the rarity of Joel’s appearances in the UK these days, the chance to see his songbook performed live on stage by a singer who was invited to perform with Joel’s original band at the recreation of the Sigma Sound sessions concert should have drawn a bigger audience, even on a wet Thursday night. Maybe it was under publicised (I wasn’t aware of it until the weekend prior), or maybe I (along with Elio) overestimate the importance of Joel’s contribution to modern pop culture. Either way, there are far worse ways to spend two and a half hours of your life.

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