Scenes From A Big Egg Act II (Laura-03/04)
Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan – November 30th, 2006
Disc 1: Opening SE, Prelude – Angry Young Man, Sakura Sakura – My Life, Honesty, The Entertainer, Zanzibar, New York State Of Mind, Allentown, Don’t Ask Me Why, The Stranger, Just The Way You Are, Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song), Miami 2017, An Innocent Man, She’s Always A Woman
Disc 2: I Go To Extremes, The River Of Dreams, Highway To Hell (Ricky “Chain Saw” LaPointe on Vocal), We Didn’t Start The Fire, Big Shot, It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me, You May Be Right, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Sukiyaki – Piano Man. Bonus tracks, sound check on the day: Stiletto, Just The Way You Are, Nutcracker, Fantasie-Impromptu In C Sharp Minor, Op. 66, Nocturne No.2 in E-Flat Major Op.9-2, Stranger, Entertainer, New York State Of Mind, Prelude
Scenes From A Big Egg Act II contains the following night. And similarly it is a flawless soundboard and audience tape combination. It also has the mixing issues too with the backing vocals sometimes being louder than Billy Joel’s lead vocals. But the effect is very good with the audience recording giving the sound three dimensions even on the smallest headphones.
The opening tape contains the main theme from the movie The Natural which segues directly into “Prelude” and “Angry Young Man.” The following song “My Life,” instead of beginning with Beethoven’s Ode an die Freude, is prefaced with the traditional Japanese tune “Sakura Sakura” or “Cherry Blossom” played with a rock beat. The high mix of the backing vocals is quite intrusive on this song unfortunately. Joel introduces “Honesty” as a song from the 1978 album 52nd Street. “That was the first compact disc ever made right here in Japan.”
He delivers a more serious and straightforward version of the track compared to the first evening in Tokyo. “As you may have guessed we’re all gonna be on TV.. not tonight. When will they show this thing?” “January” someone answers. “you’ll all have to sign a release form.” He then introduces “The Stranger” as “my take on the music business.” Afterwards he introduces keyboardist Dave Rosenthal from New Jersey.
“Zanzibar” is referred to as an obscure song that wasn’t a hit. With the repeated melody and fast jazz breaks it is a compelling live piece and this night’s performance is impeccable. Mark Rivera, from Brooklyn, New York, is introduced after his great saxophone playing in “New York State Of Mind” and Tommy Burns on guitar is introduced after “Allentown,” Joel’s ode to the Pennsylvania rust belt.
“Don’t Ask Me Why” follows and is given a heavy Mexican arrangement including a count-in in Spanish and Joel punctuating the verses with “Andale!”
“That’s it. The piano goes this way, and the piano goes that way. That’s the special effect. This is from an album that came out in 1977” Billy points out before “The Stranger.” Joel gives the count-in for “Moving Out (Anthony’s Song) in Japanese. “Miami 2017,” which was played as the third number on the first night, is moved to the middle of the set. This song is usually a tremendous live number, but this version sounds somewhat limp compared to the previous night, but the mafia takes over Tokyo (to scattered applause from the attentive audience).
“Keeping The Faith,” which was played after “An Innocent Man” the first night in Tokyo, is dropped and the band continue with a gorgeous version of “She’s Always A Woman.” “I Go Extremes” from Storm Front is played before the title track from his last pop oriented album The River Of Dreams. Joel introduces guitar roadie Ricky “Chain Saw” LaPointe for his cover of AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell,” which is introduced as a “religious song.” It is a fun way to take a pause in the set before the roaring finale.
The last four songs are the same as the previous evening beginning with “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” Again Crystal Taliefero’s backing vocals are higher in the mix which is a bit annoying but this is still a great song. It is interesting to hear a concise history of the US, but there several verses dedicated to the fifties while the late sixties to the mid-eighties are glossed over. Since the song is almost twenty years old perhaps he should update it with a new verse covering the nineties and first decade of the 21st century. There are certainly a lot of things he can mention like the Gulf War, ethnic cleansing, 9/11 and Paris Hilton. Only the most important things.
“You May Be Right” is the official set closer. A seven and a half minute version of “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” is the first encore and is followed by two full minutes of audience cheering before Joel comes out again for a second.
“Piano Man” is preceded by a few bars of Kyu Sakamoto’s 1963 hit “Ue o muite aruko” (aka “Sukiyaki”). The audience participation is so loud that Joel says “get a mic out there!” The rest of the disc contains an approximately half hour long tape from the sound check that afternoon. “I hope I remember it” Joel says before they start “Stiletto.”
That number ends abruptly when they begin in the wrong key and it breaks down in laughter and someone saying, “you know you cut the second verse out?” He doodles several classical pieces including two by Chopin while talking to the road crew about the fans and lights on stage. This section of the tape is more indicative of his solo work than the pop in the regular set and it’s a shame he didn’t include more classical pieces in the show. There is a complete version of “The Stranger” which ends with Joel saying, “Dave, you have that whistle coming up.”
The final three tracks on the sound check tape are short glimpses of the songs. “Prelude” contains the fast piano beginning which segues into “Wipeout” while Joel shouts out “Ernie Anastos…Roz Abrams,” two New York metropolitan area newscasters who worked together on WABC channel seven in the eighties. Quite why he shouts out their names must be an inside joke.
Scenes From A Big Egg Act II is the second of three releases on the new Laura label offering Billy Joel silvers, something of a rarity. The label put a lot of thought into the design and come on picture discs.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)