Billy Joel will celebrate his 60th birthday on Saturday with a bottle of red, a bottle of white and the notion that only the good marry younger women (his third and current wife is 32 years his junior, a mere five years older than his daughter).
For a little "fundraiser" for the big 6-0 party, Elton John, 62, joined Joel on Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Center for another incarnation of their occasional Face 2 Face Tour, a k a Hello Gold Brick Road. The hair-impaired piano men with too many first names began touring together in 1995, and this was their third presentation in the Twin Cities, the last being in 2003.
The format was once again the same -- a couple songs by the just the two of them together, two numbers together with their bands, 11 selections by each with his own band, and a big jam at the end. But the results weren't the same.
Elton was in fine voice, assertive on the piano and he stretched out like a madman across the keyboard on "Rocket Man" and "Madman Across the Water" (with a little instrumental detour into "Girl from Ipanema"). But his take-us-on-autopilot band was, as that once-angry young Billy Joel sings, as boring as hell. No sense of fun, no sense of dynamics and no sense of coiffure. Davey Johnstone still sports those vintage blond long locks that, thanks to a fan, blew around like a flickering candle in the wind.
The band did finally find a groove late in its set on "Levon" and coasted through "I'm Still Standing" and "Crocodile Rock," which indeed reminded us when Elton was young and unstoppable fun.
When BJ and his band took over the stage, percussionist/saxophonist/harmonica player/backup singer Crystal Taliefero showed more enthusiasm, excitement and moves in the first number than Elton's entire band demonstrated in 75 minutes. Moreover, BJ's nine-person band played with more physicality and a greater sense of dynamics than EJ's six-man group.
Joel himself was loose, spontaneous and maybe crazy. After playing some Prince passages on piano before one song, he and his band broke into "1999" in the middle of "River of Dreams" and then switched back to their doo-wop-drenched "Dreams." Afterward, the big shot with the big mouth offered his own review: "To go from a Prince groove to that song is not easy. That was an authentic rock 'n' roll bleep up." He does go to extremes to be the entertainer.
For the home stretch, it was time to get back to the two paunchy cats. EJ andBJ and their bands rocked out, even doing -- how appropriately -- the Beatles' "Birthday." At the end of the 3 1/2 hours of hits without an intermission, the 19,960 concertgoers were still standing, going "yeah yeah yeah."
For a set list and fan comments, go to www.startribune.com/poplife.
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719