Billy Joel – Innocent Nights (Zion-029)


Innocent Nights

The early eighties were definitely one of Billy Joel’s peaks.  Glass Houses was one of his hardest rocking albums and was his most successful The Nylon Curtain came out two years later and was his most poignant to date, serving as a commentary on political and social realities of the time.  But An Innocent Man, released in 1983, represented Joel as his most nostalgic for true old time rock and roll and remains one of his most joyful creations.  

Touring was brief for Nylon Curtain.  Much of its publicity consisted of the big Nassau Coliseum show telecast on HBO and its subsequent release on Live From Long Island.  But for An Innocent Man Joel went on a long US tour and visited Japan for the first time in three years.  The seven dates started and ended in Tokyo with three shows in Osaka and Nagoya in between.  

Innocent Nights contains new audience tapes for the first and last shows on the tour.  Both sound very good and make their debut on silver disc.  This is also the first silver pressed title to cover shows from the Japan or any An Innocent Man tour.  Zion have slowly issued Billy Joel titles over the past couple of years, working in chronological order.  

Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – May 21st, 1984

Disc 1 (45:38): Opening (The Mexican Connection), Prelude / Angry Young Man, My Life, The Stranger, Don’t Ask Me Why, Allentown, Goodnight Saigon, Pressure, Just The Way You Are

Disc 2 (63:54): Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, An Innocent Man, The Longest Time, Stiletto, Sometimes A Fantasy, It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me, Uptown Girl, Big Shot, Tell Her About It, You May Be Right, Only The Good Die Young

The show opens with “The Mexican Connection” as a prelude before the first song in the set “Angry Young Man.”  Of course at this point in his career Joel wasn’t angry and he wasn’t young, but it’s a good reminder of where he came from.  He follows with a spirited version of “My Life.”  

Joel jokes around with the audience, showing them a puppet of himself to everyone in the Budokan to a huge ovation.  The beginning of “The Stranger” seems to catch them by surprise.  After “Don’t Ask Me Why” he plays several “finger pointing” songs from The Nylon Curtain starting with “Allentown.”  

The sound of a helicopter acts as a segue into “Goodnight Saigon.”  Joel offers a passionate rendition of the song which seemed to set a tone in the eighties of the Vietnam veteran as a drugged out whiner.  Films that came out after this song such as Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Casualties Of War built upon these themes.      

Joel introduces the band to the tune of “The Godfather” and the tarantella dance before “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.”  His longest sustained narrative, it’s punctuated by a wild horn section punctuating the dramatic turns.

For the rest of the show he plays many tunes from the new album.  The triangle is extremely loud in the introduction to “An Innocent Man” prompting him to joke “what is this? The Gong Show?”  He strips down his band for “The Longest Time.”  Introducing his backing singers, he tells the audience “we’re gonna sing in a capella.  You know a capella?  This is real old time rock and roll before “The Longest Time.”

The show ends with a joyful version of “Uptown Girl” and “Big Shot.”  Joel returns for three encores, “Tell Her About It,” “You May Be Right” and “Only The Good Die Young.”  

Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – May 31th, 1984

Disc 3 (41:08): Opening (The Mexican Connection), Prelude / Angry Young Man, My Life, The Stranger, Don’t Ask Me Why, Allentown, This Night, Pressure, Just The Way You Are

Disc 4 (71:39): Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, An Innocent Man, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, The Longest Time, Leave A Tender Moment Alone, Sometimes A Fantasy, It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me, Uptown Girl, Big Shot, Tell Her About It, You May Be Right, Only The Good Die Young 

The final night in Budokan, and the last night in Japan, is extremely fun and becomes very loose as the show builds to a climax.  The recording is slightly more distant than the other night but still quite listenable.  There is a small cut after “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me” cutting off the opening of “Uptown Girl” but otherwise its complete.  

Joel has reached the end of a long tour and is a silly mood.  He jokes with the audience, trying to speak Japanese, and changes melodies at will.  The opening twenty minutes are the same as the 21st.  He plays a very somber theme on the piano as an introduction to “My Life.”    But after “Allentown” he drops the serious “Goodnight Saigon,” substituting the more upbeat do wop song “This Night.”  It was released as a single in Japan but didn’t chart very high.  It’s a fun diversion and a real rarity.  

The following song “Pressure” sound very angry and hostile with Joel spitting out the words.  “Just The Way You Are” is quiet and tender, but “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” is played at a quicker tempo with a snide tone in the voice.  

While getting ready to sing “The Longest Time” Joel and the other singers get into The Tokens arrangement of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”  Joel experiments with a new melody and they bring the song to a slow and sustained cadence as if they don’t want to end.  

The aggressive “Stiletto” is dropped in favor of “Leave A Tender Moment Alone.”  David Brown on guitar plays some heavy metal riffs as an introduction to “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me.”  During the song Mark Rivera plays a sultry saxophone making it sound so eighties!

After “Big Shot” the audience shout “BILLY BILLY” over and over until he returns for the encore set.  During “Tell Her About It” Joel gets angry at his mic stand.  “THIS MIC STAND SUCKS!!  GET RID OF IT” he shouts.  “You May Be Right” starts with Joel repeating Latin phrases like “sic gloria transit” and adding “David Letterman.”  The long night ends with “Only The Good Die Young.”  

After this show he would travel to London for three concerts in Wembley Arena and then to New York for seven nights in Madison Square Garden at the end of June and beginning of July.  He wouldn’t tour again for a couple of years after The Bridge came out.  Innocent Nights is a really nice document from the era in very good sound quality.

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