Kohuept (1987)

1. Odeya 2. Prelude/The Angry Young Man 3. Honesty 4. Goodnight Saigon 5. Stiletto 6. Big Man on Mulberry Street 7. Baby Grand 8. An Innocent Man 9. Allentown 10.A Matter of Trust 11.Only the Good Die Young 12.Sometimes a Fantasy 13.Uptown Girl 14.Big Shot 15.Back in the U.S.S.R. 16.The Times They Are A-Changin'


During the successful tour of his last album, The Bridge, Billy Joel did something that most entertainers never dreamed of doing back in the 1980s. He toured behind the Iron Curtain in what was then the U.S.S.R. It was a very grand gesture to bring more of the West to the East and "bridge" relations between the superpowers, since they were easing to the point of where it made such a move possible. Documentaries were made, news stories were everywhere and Joel, himself seemed very touched by the whole experience.

All of this is quite wonderful, but sadly it doesn't necessarily translate into a very good live album. I'm sure his heart was thinking the right thing: "Let's tour the Soviet Union and we'll make a live recording!". Problem is the whole thing is just downright boring. It's not that his performances are bad, they're actually first rate, but part of the enjoyment of a live show and a live album, is the exchange of energy between performer and audience. For the most part, there simply isn't any energy from the concert goers. And who can blame them? They simply don't know any better. To be honest, the crowd reaction seems to pick up a bit near the end of the "show", but it's too little, too late. Quite often when Joel and company are playing, it sounds like their rehearsing instead of playing an actual concert since you can't hear any crowd interacting.

Of course, Joel feels obligated to color this release with "elements" not typical of one of his shows. From the opening song Odeya performed a-cappella by a Russian Quartet, to his cover of Dylan's The Times They Are-A Changin' (included on this record because, you know, times were, like, really changin...), it just seemed too much of a documentary and not a rock and roll concert. And why does every rock performer that plays in Russia feel like they have to play The Beatles' Back in the U.S.S.R.?

Knowing the history of these shows makes it pretty amazing they could even pull off such a thing. Like when the documentary crew was filming the audience with bright lights during the song Sometimes a Fantasy causing Joel to throw a tantrum in the middle of the song and upturning a keyboard (that episode isn't on the album). Or when the opening intro music to the concert started to play and the lights dimmed to complete audience silence. Or when the first time Joel said "Goodnight" to the audience, they politely got out of their seats and walked out of the arena, not knowing what an "encore" was. Well, there's some good Billy Joel songs here, but none of them do much. It's really a shame too, since Joel is such an incredible talent live.

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