Music

Billy Joel packs hits into tidy, two-hour show at Globe Life Park

Early in Billy Joel’s concert Saturday night at Globe Life Park in Arlington, the 70-year-old hit-maker turned to the crowd of more than 40,000 to confess.

“I just want to let you know, I don’t have anything new for you,” Joel said. “Same old (stuff).”

Joel, who was playing North Texas for the first time since 2015, then offered to let the crowd choose the kind of show he and his eight-piece band would perform. Sitting at his black grand piano in a dark suit and tie, Joel held up two different setlists — one filled with deep cuts and some “random, obscure tunes” and one that was “nothing but hits.”

Whether it was a legit offer or just Joel’s cheeky way of introducing a two-hour, hit-filled night of his classic, pop-rock canon, is not clear. But the fan response came back loud and clear: Give us the hits.

And that he did. Although Joel hasn’t released new material since 1993, the first 20 years of his recording career was so packed with iconic, radio-friendly sing-alongs that his show still felt too short at two hours.

Joel and his band took the stage, which was set up in center field facing home plate, as Randy Newman’s theme from the film “The Natural” played, a nod to the history of baseball at the ballpark. They quickly busted into a peppy version of “My Life,” from Joel’s 1978 hit album “52nd Street.” Joel peppered the song’s piano intro with a quick run through the melody of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” before the band kicked the show into high gear.

All but one of the songs he played were released before 1990. Twelve of those were from between 1973 and 1980, when Joel became a worldwide rock star on the back of smash albums “The Stranger,” “52nd Street” and “Glass Houses.”

He leaned heavily on them, including playing five of the nine songs on “The Stranger” and three songs each from “52nd Street” and “Glass Houses.”

He even covered a couple of hits from the 1970s not his own, including “Tush” as a salute to Texas’ ZZ Top and a rollicking take on the Eagles’ “Take It Easy,” which was sandwiched in the middle of “The River of Dreams.”

He donned a black cowboy hat while performing “Shameless,” a song from his ‘89 album “Storm Front” that later was a hit for Garth Brooks.

The highlight of the night was perhaps the one-two punch of “Nessun Dorma,” an aria from Puccini’s opera “Turandot” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” a song that wasn’t a hit for Joel in 1977 but has remained a fan favorite. The combo has become a standard in Joel’s set and with the aria sung by his guitarist Michael Delguidice, who showed off a beautiful voice. He also sang “Tush” and “Take It Easy.”

Joel’s most famous song, “Piano Man,” closed out the main set before an upbeat, five-song encore of “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Uptown Girl,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “Big Shot” and “You May Be Right.”

And two hours exactly after the hit parade began, it was done at 10:35 p.m.

If there is a quibble, it was that Joel didn’t play long enough, especially for a stadium-sized show on a Saturday night. But no one felt cheated, not with as many hits as Joel crammed into two hours.

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.
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