Instead of the boys of summer, Billy Joel and The Who kickstarted the new season with an epic weekend of concerts at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies ballpark hosted shows headlined by each act over Memorial Day Weekend. The pair of shows provided a rush of nostalgia. Along with opener Peter Wolf, the two concerts combined for 57 songs chiseled into Classic Rock history.
Both headliners have a long rapport with Philadelphia. Billy Joel packed more fans into the stands, but both received tremendous turnouts. It does not matter that the headliners combined to release two albums since 1993. People came en masse for the hits. Instead of home runs, Philly fans witnessed chart toppers from different eras that have stood the test of time.
Billy Joel At Citizens Bank Park
The Piano Man played at the ballpark for his sixth consecutive year (the record for most concerts at Citizens Bank Park). He remains an excellent performer at age 70. Billy Joel’s voice is more withered than his peak days, but he can entertain a large crowd because of his memorable songs. A few piano notes or guitar chords into the music, everyone knows every word to every song and the audience takes over. Many belt the words, almost trumping the band on stage.
And Billy Joel has many hits. The Long Islander played a 26-song revue that lasted two hours and twenty minutes. It was impossible to ignore how massive the singer’s catalog is. He came onstage to music from The Natural and began with “A Matter Of Trust” and “Pressure.” He later brought active service members onstage for the emotional “Goodnight Saigon.” The touch prompted a standing ovation from the ballpark.
Midway through the set, Billy Joel gave an unexpected jolt to the show. He followed “She’s Always A Woman” by bringing Jason Bonham onstage. The son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham sat in for energetic covers of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Good Times Bad Times.” For a stadium whose house song is “Kashmir,” Led Zeppelin’s music brought the crowd to its feet. People went from happily singing along to headbanging to Plant and Page.
The main set ended with (of course) “Piano Man,” but the night was far from over. Billy Joel logged a five-song encore that included “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and “Big Shot.” The show closed with a cut of “You May Be Right” that included a verse of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” The Brit Rock cover served as a perfect transition to the next evening.
The Who And Peter Wolf In Philly
The Who’s turn at Citizens Bank Park was more anthemic than their American counterpart. The scale of their production is tailor-made for the biggest stages. An orchestra and music from the band’s rock operas currently amplify the group’s Moving On tour.
Peter Wolf played a tight 30-minute open. The ex-J. Geils frontman danced like Mick Jagger and warmed a crowd receptive to his rock and blues. Wolf is accustomed to supporting big headliners in Philly. In 2017 he opened two tour stops for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
The Who’s set came off inconsistently. The orchestral addition to their sound may turn out well on a properly-mixed album. It sounded like too much plugged into a broken stereo. This may be an issue unique to Citizens Bank Park. The delay created a swirling sound that bounced off the ballpark’s nosebleed seats. The band was able to get away with it when the orchestra left the stage, but not when the entire ensemble was together.
This hampered the initial set, but eased as the concert progressed. The show began with seven songs from Tommy and staples like “Who Are You” and “Eminence Front.” Midway through The Who’s 24 songs, the orchestra stepped aside for five pieces from different stages of the band’s carer. An acoustic cut of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” prompted a tremendous singalong from the crowd. As good as that version was, it felt incomplete without Roger Daltrey’s signature scream.
Pete Townshend and Daltrey kept the mode light. The duo joked with the crowd throughout the show. Townshend also noted that The Who are set to release a new album in 2019.
The orchestra returned onstage for seven straight songs from another of The Who’s signature albums, Quadrophenia. These songs were a better fit with the classical arrangements than the initial set. The Quadrophenia run ended with an incredible performance of “Love, Reign O’er Me” from Daltrey. Daltrey emptied the tank on that song, allowing for the weekend’s most triumphant moment.
The Who ended the show with the best possible play to the audience. The Citizens Bank Park jumbotron turned on for the last song, “Baba O’Reilly.” Violinist Katie Jacoby wound down the song a tremendous solo. The crowd greeted her with a tremendous roar as she turned around and flashed a Bryce Harper jersey. The walk-off moment capped an excellent weekend of concerts at the ballpark.