Back to Back: Bill Joel, Queen, Paul Rodgers

Justin Rodstrom

Last Monday and Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending two concerts back-to-back at the Wachovia Center Complex. They were two of the most exciting nights of my life: great jams, great friends and great fun.

Monday night, Billy Joel played for a packed house at the Wachovia Center. Joel was in rare form, playing classics from “The Stranger” to “The River of Dreams” albums and everything in between.

He seemed to be enjoying his new-found lease on life, dancing around the stage and telling jokes, quite a departure from his peripheral depression a few months back.

He played a relaxed yet energetic set including “Captain Jack,” “Vienna,” “Scenes from An Italian Restaurant” and of course, “Piano Man.” His antics ranged from dancing around on top of his piano and whipping his microphone around like he was Roger Daultry to inviting roadie “Chainsaw” on to the stage to perform a very unexpected rendition of the old somber religious tune “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC. The night was enthusiastically closed with “Piano Man,” a song that had everyone, including security guards, singing along.

Tuesday night I was back at the Wachovia complex for a night of classic Queen with Paul Rodgers. Although the pairing may draw skepticism from hardcore Queen fans, these doubts were quickly dispelled with the epitomic ’70s style singing of Rodgers.

Even without Freddie Mercury’s unique sound, Queen was able to rock out to their classic songs, also playing songs from Rodgers’ past projects including Bad Company and Free.

The set included Queen classics like upbeat “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” the operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love” as well as “Bad Company.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” was an event in itself, as can be expected from the song’s notoriety. The song started off with a video of Freddie Mercury, to which the crowd responded with loving applause.

The video began with Mercury playing the opening sequence (“Mama … just killed a man”) and was accompanied by the live backing of Queen.

I was taken aback by this smart and emotional way of performing the song, which won over so many fans while at the same time paid homage to the life of Freddie Mercury. The night ended with the medley, “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” with “Alright Now” by Free wedged in the middle of the two songs.