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Review: Billy Joel rocks Sunrise into the New Year

Photo: Howard Cohen
Photo: Howard Cohen

Billy Joel’s first-ever New Year’s Eve concert in South Florida was a rousing 2-1/2 hour affair that lasted until 1 a.m. and featured more than a dozen hits, album cuts, covers and guest appearances from Howard Stern, Jimmy Kimmel, Gavin DeGraw and Kevin James.

At 66, Billy Joel convincingly rocked Led Zeppelin covers and his own rockers, including ‘You May Be Right,’ ‘Big Shot’ and ‘Only the Good Die Young,’ Thursday night at BB&T Center.

Joel’s elastic voice sounds undiminished by time, almost as youthful and pliable as it did when he first released the hits and buried cuts he played from his most popular albums, The Stranger (1977), 52nd Street (1978), Glass Houses (1980) and An Innocent Man (1983).

Of course, he’s no longer the “angry young man” of yesteryear who might just as easily hurdle over his piano as play the instrument. These days, Joel sits for nearly the duration of his 2-1/2-hour concert, a point that doesn’t go unnoticed by the star.

“That’s it for the special effects,” Joel quipped after his piano revolved on a turntable so that everyone packed into the arena could have a closer look. “The piano goes this way. The piano goes that way,” he said, gesturing with his small (for a piano player) hands.

Just before, he traded banter with actor/comedian Kevin James, who took over Joel’s piano seat to play the opening notes of Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) as if wearing a catcher’s mitt. “This thing’s way out of tune,” James teased.

Joel began playing at 10:30 p.m., after a likeable opening set from Junior Piano Man, Gavin DeGraw, and didn’t exit until 1 a.m. He structured the concert to play like the ultimate Millennium gig — the greatest pop hits of the last century, his own and spirited covers, including a trio of Led Zeppelin songs to lead into the New Year countdown where he was aided by guests Stern and Kimmel.

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