The Bridge Japan Tour
After the success with An Innocent Man, Billy Joel eased up a bit in 1985. He recorded two new songs, “You’re Only Human (Second Wind)” and “The Night Is Still Young” for his first greatest hits collection Greatest Hits Volume 1 & Volume 2, and participated in recording “We Are The World” for USA For Africa (but, strangely, didn’t play Live Aid).
He the worked on his new album The Bridge which would come out a year later. An eclectic collection of new music, it contained several hits such as “A Matter Of Trust,” “Modern Woman” and “This Is The Time” and also included guest appearances by Ray Charles, Steve Winwood, Cindy Lauper and jazz musicians Ron Carter and Michael Brecker. Live performance for the new material began that September in New York and wound its way to Japan the following June.
His first visit to Japan in three years, he played seven shows. The Bridge Japan Tour presents the first and fourth of the seven concerts sourced from the same fan whose tapes Zion released on Glass Houses In Japan (Zion-025) and Innocent Nights (Zion-029). Both shows are making their silver pressed debut. Since this covers his final tour of Japan in the eighties, these three collections offer a good summary of his live performances that decade.
Yoyogi Olympic Pool, Tokyo, Japan – June 8th, 1987
Disc 1 (59:41): Opening, A Matter Of Trust, Pressure, You’re Only Human (Second Wind), Piano Man, The Stranger, Allentown, My Life, Prelude / Angry Young Man, Don’t Ask Me Why, Big Man On Mulberry Street
Disc 2 (72:03): Baby Grand, An Innocent Man, The Longest Time, Only The Good Die Young, It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me, Sometimes A Fantasy, You May Be Right, Uptown Girl, Tell Her About It, Keeping The Faith, Big Shot
The June 8th Yoyogi Olympic Pool show has good to very good sound quality. The music is a distant from the recorder but clear. Zion push the limit of remastering like they’ve been doing of late. The applause has a slight annoying crispiness that come out of a boost to the volume. There is a cut in the tape at the end of “My Life,” but no music is lost.
Before the first song George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” is played over the venue’s PA before beginning the show with “A Matter Of Trust,” the biggest hit from the new album. The set list for the Japan dates are the same as the US tour except he dropped “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” and “Goodnight Saigon.”
After “Pressure” he sings “You’re Only Human (Second Wind),” another of his recent hits. He reaches back to his early days for “Piano Man” and “The Stranger” complete with “Sakura” as a prelude.
The middle portion of the show contains the more serious and demanding material from The Bridge, “Big Man On Mulberry Street” and “Baby Grand.” Like everything he does it reveals Joel’s commitment to the jazz idiom, but it sounds a bit too much for the Tokyo audience there that night. Things loosen up when he returns to more fun songs and general looning on stage.
Before “The Longest Time’ they sing a few lines of The Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” and “In The Still Of The Night,” the 1956 doo-woop hit by the Five Satins. “The Longest Time” is plagued by nasty feedback on the microphone. The set ends with “You May Be Right.” Joel returns for two encore sets, “Uptown Girl” and “Tell Her About It” is the first and “Keeping The Faith” and a lively “Big Shot” are the second. “Don’t take any shit from anybody” are his parting words.
Castle Hall, Osaka, Japan – June 13th, 1987
Disc 3 (74:32): Opening, A Matter Of Trust, Pressure, You’re Only Human (Second Wind), Piano Man, The Stranger, Allentown, My Life, Prelude / Angry Young Man, Don’t Ask Me Why, Big Man On Mulberry Street, Baby Grand, An Innocent Man
Disc 4 (52:29): The Longest Time, Only The Good Die Young, It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me, Sometimes A Fantasy, You May Be Right, Uptown Girl, Tell Her About It, She Loves You, Big Shot
After playing Tokyo on June 10th Joel traveled to Osaka for two shows at the Castle Hall on June 12th and June 13th. The recording is slightly more clear than June 8th.
Osaka has almost the same set list as the other shows. Beginning with the Gershwin introduction, the tone is set for big city jazz revue, the current ethic Joel was working with. Of course, the first hour of the show is occupied with older and newer songs including great versions of “Piano Man” and a moving “Allentown.”
He plays a small bit of Madonna’s “Material Girl” on the piano after “Angry Young Man” in a joking mood.
After “Don’t Ask Me Why” there is the centerpiece of the show. “Big Man On Mulberry Street” evokes the splendor and sexiness of jazz-age mid-town New York. It sounds like a mini-drama played out onstage before the Osaka audience. The following “Baby Grand” slows the pace down a bit but retains the excitement.
The latter half of the show starts off with Joel in a chatty mood. Before “The Longest Time” he speaks about how his voice has lowered as he has aged, as do all voices. He mimics Michael Jackson, singing “Billy Jean” both in the original key and then much lower as an old man (to the delight of the crowd).
The show closes with “You May Be Right.” The audience sings loudly along with the latter songs including “Tell Her About It.” When he returns for the second encore set, he drops “Keeping The Faith” in favor of a faithful cover of The Beatles’ “She Loves You.” A heavy metal guitar introduction leading into “Big Shot” closes the show.
After this gig Joel would return to Tokyo for three more shows at the Yoyogi Pool before continuing his tour with a date in London and then in Leningrad in the Soviet Union in July. He would return to Tokyo on July 24th, 1988 for a one-off appearance with many other artists for the grand opening of the new Tokyo Dome.
The Bridge Japan Tour is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with various photos from the tour on the artwork, much like the other titles in the Zion series.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)