“I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is I have nothing new to play. The good news is you don’t have to hear anything new.” Thus began one of the best concerts we have ever been lucky enough to experience: Billy Joel at Hyde Park.
A staple of the global music scene since his arrival in the 1970s, the New York born artist arrived on stage with a nonchalance completely at odds with the buzzing excitement of his 65,000 strong crowd.
But that excitement was coupled with fear: What if our expectations were too high? What if his vocals didn’t hold up? What if the setlist was disappointing? It would have been so easy for the 74-year-old to have lost the vocals that made him so iconic, relying on his hits to carry him through. But these fears were put to rest the minute Joel sat down at the piano and opened his mouth.
From the opening of My Life to the final notes of You May Be Right, Joel’s vocal strength and fluidity commanded the attention and awe of his audience, enveloping them in a nostalgia that continued throughout the two-hour show.
Along with a stellar setlist that featured his biggest hits, fan favourites, and covers, the singer-songwriter charmed his audience with jokes and anecdotes that further displayed his timelessness and secured his legendary status in our eyes. But the atmosphere the crowd evoked at Hyde Park was just as vital to the overall experience.
Through songs such as Vienna and Zanzibar which, thanks to TikTok, have had a resurgence in recent years, people from all walks of life sung and danced together despite Joel not releasing new music since 1994.
Moments like these highlight Joel’s power to create timeless tracks that bridge the gap between people from all walks of life, and the power music has in providing an escape from a world determined to pit us against each other (The Longest Time for example, caused a group of mixed age people to attempt a slightly drunken three-way harmony. Something that we may have started).
If you are ever given the opportunity to see a master at work, do yourself a favour and see Billy Joel, because nothing will prepare you for the sheer perfection that is this charismatic, talented, and hilarious artist doing what he was born to do.
And who knows? He might even bring out a Jonas Brother! (We love you Joe Jonas, even if your appearance during Uptown Girl did throw us!)
This year’s American Express presents BST Hyde Park saw shows from the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen and many more. For more information about BST Hyde Park and to keep an eye on announcements for 2024 visit the official website.