Preview: The Billy Joel Songbook

Elio Pace
Elio Pace

Elio Pace will be perform ‘The Billy Joel Songbook’ at the Matlings, Berwick, Thursday, May 29, 7.30pm

You’d have to be brave to take on the musical wizardry of Billy Joel, but Elio Pace has taken on the challenge.

Elio’s show, ‘The Billy Joel Songbook’, is the first ever Joel-inspired production to tour the UK. But he is keen to emphasise that he is not a tribute act.

When he arrives at The Maltings on Thursday, all the hits will be in there – ‘Piano Man’, ‘My Life’, ‘Uptown Girl’ – but Elio won’t be trying to replicate Billy in looks or sound. Instead he will indulge his love for the legend’s amazing songs and musicianship.

“To put it simply, the man is a genius,” he enthused. “I first fell in love with his music in the mid-1980s when I heard the track ‘This Night’ from his famous ‘An Innocent Man’ album. “That was the big record with ‘Tell Her About It’ and ‘The Longest Time’ on it but that was the song that really struck a chord with me.

“I thought any rock star who could sing like that was one worth listening to; he’d passed me by until then.”

Another quality Elio still appreciates about the man who has 12 acclaimed albums under his belt is that he’s not afraid to experiment and stays true to himself. “He writes the music he wants to write, he doesn’t follow trends,” says Ellio.

“He’s written a jazz song when jazz wasn’t necessarily cool; a rock and roll song when no-one else was; and he’s not afraid to get romantic when some of his contemporaries wouldn’t dare.

“The thing I always say about Billy Joel is that he is the most over-qualified musician out there. He is a scientific musician, he has such a grasp of music and how to play the piano.”

Elio has never actually met Billy Joel, although he has done the next best thing. Last year he was invited to perform with the singer’s original band for two concerts in America.

“Singing Billy Joel songs to Americans is like selling coal to Newcastle,” he joked.

“They know them all but thankfully they really loved the show and for me it was the biggest thrill of my career to date.

“I’ve just been invited to go back to New York in August to do the show again so I’m really looking forward to that.

“The other thing that I take a lot from is that Billy Joel knows who I am. I know he’s seen videos of me performing and I know he knows about this tour. That’s incredible for me.”

For a die-hard Joel fan like Elio, whittling down the icon’s back catalogue for his Songbook tour was no easy task and for that reason there are 38 songs in the setlist.

“Twelve albums worth of gems into a two-hour 15 minute show just does not go,” he explained.

“Deciding which ones to put in and which ones to leave out was an absolute nightmare. I had some help from my good friend Matt Daniel-Baker; we sat for hours and hours going through all the songs.

“There were a lot of tough decisions as Billy has so many fantastic songs under his belt.

“People can be assured that all the hits are in there and we’ve also catered for the more hardened fans with some of his best album tracks.

“Everywhere I’ve played so far has re-booked the show for next year so I’m hoping we get a great crowd along in Berwick as I love The Maltings.