Tampa Bay Times: In Tampa, Billy Joel and Sting make a delightful duo...

February 25, 2024

In Tampa, Billy Joel and Sting make a delightful duo: concert review...

What happens when an “Englishman in New York” teams up with the Piano Man? A whole lot of fun.

Billy Joel made a confession to the sold-out crowd in Tampa on Saturday night.

“I wrote this in 1983 and I didn’t realize that I was going to be singing all of the high notes when I was 74,” the singer said before “An Innocent Man.” “So every time I do this song, I’m a little worried, because if I don’t hit those high notes you ain’t gonna like it.”

The crowd chuckled.

“Just pray for me,” Joel said.

Then he nailed every note.

Joel and Sting teamed up to put Tampa in a “New York State of Mind.” While the pair have shared stages over the years, their stop at Raymond James Stadium marked the first time they’ve co-headlined a concert together.

The show makes sense for Sting, whose 2021 album “Duets” was all about collaboration. It also comes during a year of transition for Joel. The Piano Man just released his first single in 17 years and will soon conclude his record-breaking 150-show residency at Madison Square Garden in July.

Joel, strolling onstage in a trucker hat to introduce his buddy Sting.

“Stick around and sing with me,” Sting said.

The pair launched into “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” Unfortunately, traffic wrapped around the venue caused a chunk of the audience to miss it.


Sting was all English cool during his set, sizzling across the stage in flared leather pants while strumming a scuffed-up bass.

“I have a little house in the English countryside – it’s more of a castle, really,” he said. “If you go to Stonehenge, walk three miles south, knock on my door and I’ll make you a cup of tea.”

At 72, Sting’s voice is just as smooth as ever. He pulled out the hits from his time in The Police, from “Message in a Bottle” to a blistering sing-along of “Roxanne.”

Sting rocked a cowboy hat and leather pants at Raymond James Stadium Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 in Tampa. "Do you like my hat?," he asked the crowd. "Good, I’ll keep wearing it."

His roughly 70-minute performance allowed for plenty of songs from his solo career (including “Desert Rose,” “Fields of Gold” and “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You.”) For “Englishman in New York,” reggae singer Shaggy popped out waving a Jamaican flag.

Then it was Joel’s turn.

“Welcome to Raymond James Stadium,” he greeted the crowd. “Last time I was here, I took my kids to see Taylor Swift. It was a good show.”

Tampa became the first city to hear “Turn the Lights Back On” in person. Joel released the tender piano ballad on Feb. 1 before playing it at the Grammys.

“This is only the second time we’ve ever done this live, so I hope we don’t screw it up,” he quipped. “What’s the tempo?”

To give everyone a good angle of his face, a platform under Joel’s piano frequently rotated mid-tune. When Joel stood to sing, he played air-piano with wiggling fingers.

He brought ample Empire State love for the New Yorkers in the audience (It’s Florida, so you know we had plenty.) A screen flashed clips of the Brooklyn Bridge during “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).” Crashing waves during “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’” paid homage to the fishermen of Long Island. To conclude a triumphant “New York State of Mind,” Joel whirled around and pointed. The Statue of Liberty filled the screen.

There was time for doo-wop, from “The Longest Time” to “Uptown Girl,” when Joel dragged his mic across the stage and waved to the ladies screaming in the front row. Sting returned, looking like Frank Sinatra in a brimmed hat and gray suit, for a jazzy “Big Man on Mulberry Street” duet.

Joel swapped to a fiery rocker persona, swinging an electric blue guitar for “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and covering the Rolling Stones.

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” he said. “I ain’t Mick Jagger.”

Billy Joel doesn't typically sell front-row seats at his concerts, saving the coveted spots so he can invite fans from the nosebleeds to dance near the stage.

Billy Joel doesn't typically sell front-row seats at his concerts, saving the coveted spots so he can invite fans from the nosebleeds to dance near the stage.

During “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” frames of present-day Joel flashed between clips of himself in the 1980 music video. Not to be bested by his younger self, the Joel onstage twirled his mic stand like a baton before flipping it over his shoulder.

There were also moments to slow down: the triumphant “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” and “Piano Man.” The latter was as magical as you’d expect from a Joel concert, everyone la, la-la, di-dee-da-ing and swaying under the full moon.

“It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday night!” Joel sang to his roaring audience.

Then he let the fans take over:

“Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody,

And you’ve got us feelin’ alright.”

(c) The Tampa Bay Times by Gabrielle Calise



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