Special Reports

Elton John, Billy Joel sing to 15,000 in Wichita

Elton John performed to a sold-out crowd on February 9, 2000.
Elton John performed to a sold-out crowd on February 9, 2000. The Wichita Eagle

Two of rock's most famous piano men, Elton John and Billy Joel, performed a three-plus hour show — together, separately, then together again — in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 15,000 at Intrust Bank Arena on Wednesday night.

The two stars, both now in their 60s, wound down their "Face 2 Face" tour with a stop in Wichita, where they performed more than 30 of their best-known hits.

"It's been 31 years since I last played in Wichita, back in 1979" Joel joked from the stage when it was his turn to perform solo. "I'm not really Billy Joel. I'm Billy Joel's dad. Billy's home messing with his hair."

The show started with the two stars emerging from two separate sides of the stage — first Joel, wearing a casual suit with a blue T-shirt. He stood, smiled and soaked up the applause for a few minutes before motioning to the other side of the stage as John appeared, wearing a black tux with tails, purple-hued sunglasses and a scarf printed with the words "Stardust Kiss."

The two sat at black grand pianos facing each other and launched into cooperative performances of four hits — John's "Your Song" and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and Joel's "Just the Way You Are" and "My Life."

Joel exited, and John launched into a solo set that included "Levon," "Rocket Man," "Madman Across the Water," "I'm Still Standing," "Daniel" and "Crocodile Rock."

He ably kept up with his hour-plus set, standing up from the piano to dance every few songs. But his age showed on "Tiny Dancer" and "Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road" when he skipped his famous high notes. On "Tiny Dancer," John purposely stayed in a lower register. And on "Road," he let the band members take the high notes.

John didn't chit-chat at all from the stage, but Joel's solo set was full of jokes and one-liners.

He opened with "Angry Young Man" and played his way through "Movin' out (Anthony's Song)," "Allentown," and crowd favorite "We Didn't Start the Fire," a song during which Joel left the piano and played the guitar in the center of the stage.

At the end of his hit "Always a Woman," the oft-married Joel joked,"... and then we got divorced."

Joel's more energetic set had the crowd on its feet dancing through other hits, such as "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me" and "Only the Good Die Young."

At the end of the show, the two returned to the stage and performed an encore together, collaborating on "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," "Uptown Girl," "Candle in the Wind," "Bennie and the Jets" and finally "Piano Man."

Annie Sauber, who got seats in the third row after the seats she purchased were blocked by a camera, said John and Joel provided the soundtrack to much of her youth.

She brought friend Marilee Nordhus along with her, and the two spent the concert dancing and reminiscing.

"I can remember my mom cleaning to 'Bennie and the Jets' when I was 5 or 6 years old," Sauber said. "It reminds me of the smell of Pledge every time I hear it."

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