May 2, 2009 - The Fargodome came alive Saturday night as over 20,000 fans packed themselves into the arena to sing along to a barrage of timeless rock classics. Elton John and Billy Joel have once again joined forces for a tour billed as “Face 2 Face” and are in the midst of a long trek across the United States. Both are known for their stunning live performances while touring solo, but when together on stage the chemistry between the two pianists becomes explosive. During the performance, Elton John earned his reputation as a rock icon by putting new twists on songs that already stand as undeniable classics, and Billy Joel proved himself to be not only a worthy pianist, but a worthy entertainer as he won the Fargo crowd over with quick one-liners and mingled with his fans near the stage. The voices of both performers are as strong as ever, and the musicians behind each of them were equally worthy of the massive applause that each song received. With a total performance time of over three hours, Elton John and Billy Joel made certain that their fans in Fargo were left with a night to remember.
The cheering grew loud at 7:45pm as Billy Joel made his way on from stage right, and Elton John from stage left. Their pianos slowly emerged from underneath the stage, and for the next 20 minutes the two were seated across from each other as they played a brief, but intimate set of songs. Elton John took the reins shortly after, breaking into crowd favorites like “Crocodile Rock” and “Rocket Man”. Elton’s set was of course largely piano driven, but there was plenty of guitar to be heard from Davey Johnstone, a great player who stole the set away into several periods of intricate solos. Drummer Nigel Olsson was all smiles as he pounded the skins with all the vigor of a man half his age. The positive energy and the feel-good mood that was so prominent on the stage didn’t take long to penetrate into the crowd; most fans were on their feet and there was plenty of dancing in the aisles and elsewhere to be seen. Elton’s piano licks were impressive to say the least, at times it seemed as if something was bound to explode. As for his attire, it was kept rather low key – low key for Elton John, that is. Gold shoes, his trademark glasses, and a dragon embroidered jacket were all part of the evening’s wardrobe, but there were no flashy hats or constant changes in dress. It was the music that mattered for this evening.
The crowd’s applause for Elton John’s electric performance merged with the applause of greeting as Billy Joel walked onto the stage and opened up the piano and keyboard driven instrumental half of “Prelude/Angry Young Man”. Starting his dialog with the crowd by introducing himself as his own father, Billy Joel’s humor was prevalent throughout his performance. While Elton John made his well-wishes known for Fargo in the wake of the flood in a more serious tone, Billy Joel took a different, more light-hearted approach as he joked “I hope that river goes down for you guys pretty soon.” The crowd ate it up, and had a particular affection for Joel’s faux North Dakota accent. All joking aside, Billy Joel took the crowd for a wild ride of memorable hits, delivering each one with a deep passion in his voice. He took to his feet and played guitar during the catchy “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, and gave a particularly energetic performance of “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by tossing his microphone stand clear above his head and later aiming it into the crowd in order to let one lucky female fan sing the final words to the song.
Billy Joel departed the stage, but before too long both performers re-emerged and finished the evening off with an extended set of with vocal and piano harmonies. The stage was almost crowded as the backing bands for both musicians shared the platform, providing a very full and rich sound. Alternating each other’s hits and sharing the lead vocals of each song, both Elton John and Billy Joel enjoyed themselves as much as the crowd. Just when it felt like all the hits had been played, the two would rip into another sing along classic – a true testament to their enduring legacy as musicians. Finishing off with Elton’s “Candle in the Wind” and Billy’s “Piano Man”, the evening ended with the performers in a warm embrace to an effusive applause. It was a truly heartfelt performance, and by its end the entire arena was singing along and feeling the passion of the songs. Years have passed since Elton John and Billy Joel first made it big, but the music they created is timeless. Their ability to bring new life and energy into the music each night is stunning, and without a doubt the Face 2 Face tour will continue to be a fan favorite throughout the world.