Elton John & Billy Joel – Face To Face In Philadelphia (Zion 041)
Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, PA, USA – July 12, 1994
Disc 1: (63:06) Opening, Your Song, Honesty, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Philadelphia Freedom, Take Me To The Pilot, Levon, Rocket Man, Simple Life, The One, New YorkState Of Mind
Disc 2: (55:08) Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, Elton Band Introduction, Can You Feel The Love Tonight, Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), Pinball Wizard, I Go To Extremes, Pressure, The Ballad Of Billy The Kid, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Disc 3: (65:30) MC, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, My Life, Billy Band Introduction, Allentown, Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel), The River Of Dreams, We Didn’t Start The Fire, It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me, Only The Good Die Young, Big Shot, The Bitch Is Back, You May Be Right, Bennie And The Jets
Elton John and Billy Joel’s Face To Face collaboration began in 1994 with a two month tour of stadiums. The tour was such a major success (how could it not have been) that they revisited the concept in 1995, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2009, and 2010.
The first Face To Face tour began on July 8th, 1994 with three shows at Veterans Stadium. Face To Face In Philadelphia is sourced from the third night and comes from an excellent stereo soundboard with great balance between all the instruments. The crowd is properly mixed in and can really only be heard between songs.
Elton John’s band features Davey Johnstone on guitar, Guy Babylon on keyboards, Bob Birch on bass, Charlie Morgan on drums, and Ray Cooper on percussion.
Billy Joel’s band features Liberty Devitto on drums, Crystal Taliefero on vocals, percussion, guitar and sax, Mark Rivera on saxes, vocals, guitars, keyboards, and flute, Tommy Byrnes on guitars and vocals, David Rosenthal on keyboards, piano, organ, and vocals, and the late great T-Bone Wolk on bass, accordion, mandolin, vocals and “Hats”.
The show opens with the two piano men playing one track from each of their catalogs with Elton and Billy sharing the vocals on both. “Is this a cool idea or what?” says Billy after “Honesty”. Elton’s band joins in for “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” and Joel exits at the songs conclusion. Elton and band take over starting with “Philadelphia Freedom” which is very well received seeing that they are in Philadelphia.
Elton really shows his stuff and stretches out the intro to “Take Me To The Pilot”. “Rocket Man” sounds great with the spacey keyboard effects and strong backing vocals. This is one of the highlights from Elton’s set and they extend the track to over nine minutes even getting funky with it. Two of Elton’s more current hits follow with “Simple Life” and “The One” with the latter featuring some nice fretless bass. Elton explains that they will each include one of the others songs in their set and chooses “New York State Of Mind”. This fits his voice very well and he sounds right at home with this one.
Disc two kicks off with the classic “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road LP and judging by the crowds reaction is just what they needed by this point. They follow with “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” where Billy Joel returns to help on vocals.
After the band introductions, John dedicates the next song to his friend “Maria” who was in the audience. “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” was Elton’s recent single from the feature film The Lion King and was a massive hit for the star.
“Saturday Night’s Alright” brings the energy to a new level and Ray Cooper gets a short but sweet percussion solo. Cooper’s presence is definitely felt throughout Elton’s set and he gets very animated and employs a call and answer with the crowd, very similar to what he did on tour with Clapton in the early 90’s. This segues into John’s cover of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” to end his portion of the show.
“I Go To Extremes” cuts in missing a portion of the beginning. Joel’s band is kicking and right away you can’t help but notice T-Bone Wolk on bass alongside longtime drummer Liberty Devitto. The two made a great solid rhythm section. Billy is more talkative than Elton and introduces “The Ballad Of Billy The Kid” as something that goes back over 20 years. Joel covers “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and does an amazing job. The band nails it and covers the difficult backing vocals almost flawlessly.
Elton pops up during “My Life” to sing a few verses and Joel introduces the band afterward. Things are slowed down briefly and Billy dedicates the very delicate “Lullabye” to his daughter.
Tommy Byrnes gets to unleash a few licks of his own before “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me” and “Only The Good Die Young” and “Big Shot” finish Joel’s set. After a few minutes of anticipation, Elton and Billy return for the encores and share duties again for the remainder of the night. “Bennie And The Jets” has a great piano duel between the two that unfortunately fades out missing the final few tracks.
Most concerts during this tour ended with a cover of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Candle In The Wind”, and “Piano Man” with some various oldies like “Lucille” and “Great Balls Of Fire” which would all follow “Bennie And The Jets”. While it is unfortunate that these are missing we still get a three hour show packed with hits and really never a dull moment. Face To Face In Philadelphia is a phenomenal release that is sure to please Elton John and Billy Joel fans alike. This is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with some photos of each of the bands and very nice looking picture discs. Regardless that it’s incomplete, the great sound quality and performance make this easy to recommend.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)