Last night Cathie and I went to see Billy Joel. It was a birthday present for Cathie from me.
We had a terrific night. Joel is a great showman, commands respect on the stage, was at ease in the 20-thousand arena and had all sorts of fun along the way. We fell smack bang in the middle of the demographic who were attending. And Billy Joel sang lots of songs from our youth.
There were some lovely moments, for example as he played Waltzing Matilda alone on the piano and the whole auditorum sang to him, and then in the last verse of the last song 20-thousand of us we sang together with no backing music:
"Sing us a song you're the piano man, sing us a song tonight.
We're all in the mood for a melody and you've got us feeling alright'
However, I was shocked and distressed to the core when Joel's roady 'Chainsaw' led the whole auditorium in singing 'I'm on the Highway to Hell.' I read later on a blog that this is a signature event of a Billy Joel concert. But there was something terribly tragic about 20-thousand people singing in loud voices - defiantly - unthinkingly - 'I am on the highway to hell.' Of course it wasn't the first time I had heard the song. But there was something about seeing all those people singing it together - an opposite parallel to a congregation singing the praise of Jesus and the glories of heaven.
Also distressing was Joel's anthem to lust 'Only the good die young' (A song of course I knew but it was distressing to see him and many others celebrating this world view)
Come out Virginia, don't let me wait
You Catholic girls start much too late
aw But sooner or later it comes down to fate
I might as well be the one
I felt for Joel the person. Of course there's lots to admire. He has been at the top of the music business for 30 years and has escaped much of the ravages of that industry. But I couldn't help feeling sad that many of his love song ballards written for previous wives were left out because (I guess) he couldn't sing them with sincerity now, the one that he did sing he had to qualify with his expression, his hand movements and his preamble explaining that he didn't really believe it anymore. He also came across as less than the person that I had expected him to be. At points spectacularly the elder statesman of rock, at points cynical, bitter and bruised.
I prayed for him when I was listening to his albums in the 80's and am going to start praying for him again.