Billy Joel – Scenes From A Nagoya Dome (Laura-05/06)

Scenes From A Nagoya Dome (Laura-05/06)

Nagoya Dome, Aichi, Japan – December 12th, 2006

Disc 1: Opening SE, Prelude – Angry Young Man, Colonel Bogey -My Life, Vienna, Honesty, The Entertainer, Zanzibar, New York State Of Mind, Miami 2017, Allentown, The Stranger, Just The Way You Are, Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song), An Innocent Man

Disc 2: Not Fade Away – Don’t Ask Me Why, She’s Always A Woman, The River Of Dreams, Highway To Hell, We Didn’t Start The Fire, Big Shot, Be Bop A Lula – It’s Still Rock ‘N’ Roll To Me, You May Be Right, Only the Good Die Young, Sakura Sakura – Piano Man. Bonus tracks, sound check of the day: Piano Improvisation #1, Piano Improvisation #2, Urebre

Scenes From A Nagoya Dome is the third Laura release documenting Billy Joel’s six-night tour of Japan and comes from the final night. Like the previous two releases of the Tokyo shows, this is a combination of an excellent mono soundboard recording and excellent stereo audience tape to give more atmosphere. The editing is perfect and what makes this one better than the others is that the soundboard recording doesn’t have the mixing problems as the Tokyo tapes. Joel’s vocals are upfront and clear and Crystal’s backing vocals don’t dominate but are pushed back where they belong. The show begins as the others with the backing tape playing The Natural but Joel can be heard on mic saying, “Tommy. Tommy. You took all my vodka, man.” “Angry Young Man” isn’t played as aggressively as on previous night and sounds somewhat subdued. “My Life” is prefaced by a traditional piece of music on this tour on in Nagoya Joel and the band play a few bars of the famous “Colonel Bogey’s March,” the tune written in 1914 and featured in numerous films and commercials (even if you don’t recognize the title you know the tune).

The first change in the set list occurs afterwards. “Thank you very much. Yes, how are you tonight? WOW, that’s one hell of an echo. We’re gonna do a song from…I don’t think we should do this next one let’s do something different. What do you guys want to do? From The Stranger album? We’re gonna do a song from an album that come out in 1977. This is a song called Vienna.” This song was occasionally played during the world tour and this is the second performance of the song on the tour, having played it the previous night at the Yahoo Dome in Fukuoka. It is a beautiful song that received some exposure recently since it is included on the soundtrack to the 2004 film 13 Going On 30. “The Entertainer,” a frequently played song, is introduced as “not about having less hair but about getting more head.” It is a very good song that has seen new life the past couple years and an interesting selection from the time before Joel became huge. He thanks the audience afterwards and says, “this is out last night of our tour in Japan,” before “Zanzibar” which again features a speedy flugelhorn solo during the jazzy interlude. “This is when my hair was a bit longer, but what the hell am I doing giving a long winded speech” he says before “Miami 2017.”

This evening’s version of is dominated by a synthesized string section with isn’t as audible on the Tokyo tapes and adds another dimension to what is already a terrific live piece. “Allentown” contains some distortion in the loud crescendos and there is a small cut in the tape after the song, but music or talking is lost. “The Stranger” is a song that he always plays in Japan and makes another appearance in Nagoya. The concert seems to slow down a bit during the following three songs and the audience notices too. Many have commented during these dates that Joel oftentimes sounds as if he’s tired and going through the motions and it is at this point in the show where steam is lost and the quality of the show drops a bit. Perhaps this is why Joel hasn’t produced a rock album in so long? His passion has been in playing the classics and writing songs outside of the pop sphere and these older songs sound rote compared to the little classical flourishes he plays.

Things do pick up at the beginning of the second disc. An impromptu version of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” (“I’m gonna tell you how it’s gonna be / if you don’t give your love to me”) precedes the Spanish count-in to “Don’t Ask Me Why.” The band sounds like they’re having fun as Joel bangs out the rhythms on the piano. On previous nights “Keeping The Faith” and “I Go To Extremes” made appearances about this time but neither of the two are played. “She’s Always A Woman” is followed by “The River Of Dreams.” The percussion keeping time is much louder in the mix suggesting it may be from a different source. There is a brief interlude where the band plays The Token’s 1961 arrangement of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” “Big Shot” is followed by a quick reference to “Be Bop A Lulu” which serves as an introduction to “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me.”

There is some commotion at the end of the song when Joel almost falls into the piano pit and after realizing it he says, “Now wouldn’t that suck if I did that right now!? That would SUCK!” Instead of playing “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” they play “Only The Good Die Young” for the first encore. A heavy and dramatic version of “Cherry Blossom” again prefaces the final song of the night “Piano Man.” Joel pauses between the opening piano flurish and harmonica melody to massive cheering by the crowd. The bonus sound check material on this release is only five minutes long and consists of several piano improvisations and ends with a fun version of “Urebre.” Scenes From A Nagoya Dome is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with obi and thick glossy inserts. Of the three Laura releases, this one stands out for the excellent balance and quality of performance and is worth having. (GS)

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