Night Owl Shows delivers a worthy and memorable spectacle with The Billy Joel Story that sees the talented troupe of Angus Munro on piano and vocals, Daniel Watts on drums, Alex Beharrell on guitar and Harry Whitty on bass. Emerging from the midst of the auditorium, Munro makes the most of the space afforded to him as he moves seamlessly through the crowd to ring in the evening with The Entertainer before descending to the podium to meet the piano.
Brings to life the history of Joel whilst allowing the audience greater appreciation of the inspiration and meaning behind his songs.
The night regales us with the history of Joel’s upbringing, his transition into the world of music and his personal trials and triumphs whilst attending to Joel’s renowned hits mostly drawn from his masterpiece album The Stranger which the band lingers on for most of the night. Fronted by the endearing and crowd-pleasing Munro, the anecdotes – complimented with a fitting slideshow – give credence to the chronologically arranged songs that paint a vivid picture of the New York sensation. Their musical cohesion is unrivalled on all numbers, particularly on Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) with the combination of Beharrell’s electric strumming and Munro’s powerful vocal timbre capable of pulling off a convincing heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack without a faltering breath. The band shows great flexibility in their routine, where on the likes of Scenes From an Italian Restaurant they shuffle around instruments, Beharrell switching to bass, Whitty taking to piano, and Munro ditching the latter for saxophone. Munro proves himself a highly dexterous, multi-talented musician, well versed in harmonica, piano and singing on the likes of Piano Man, whilst drummer Watts remains a stalwart force throughout.
In the nine-song act, the audience are offered a choice between Vienna and Just The Way You Are, the latter of which was chosen by the eager crowd who were not disappointed to hear Munro coolly handle the saxophone solo. We rounded off with top-hit classic Uptown Girl to rapturous applause, before an encore of We Didn’t Start the Fire ensured the ending did not extinguish the night’s momentum.
It’s always tricky to place tribute acts. For diehard fans, living up to the original artist is a high bar to reach; for casual listeners and newcomers, it needs to provide enough context without wearying the attention span. On both fronts, Night Owl Shows have succeeded in providing a piquant yet commanding performance that condenses enough of Joel’s music without losing flavour or composure. Any criticism of the act lies not in the musical content of the band themselves but the length of the show. Just when it begins to reach its zenith it is regrettably cut short, depriving us of some heavy hitters such as Big Shot, My Life and Captain Jack.
This is the difficulty with performing an artist such as Billy Joel, whose wide repertoire cannot be distilled into a mere 50-minute slot. For their credit, the band gets most of the big ones in, though it would have been nice to have included Only The Good Die Young. Still, levelling critiques on the basis of timeframe would be unfair to the band, who go above and beyond in the very narrow confines afforded to them. Undoubtedly, The Billy Joel Story lives up to its title and the Hicksville singer himself, bringing to life the history of Joel whilst allowing the audience greater appreciation of the inspiration and meaning behind his songs.