Day four of Bonnaroo had a bit of a sleepy start, but by the time The Piano Man took the main stage Sunday night, striding out to the opening bars of “My Life,” the mood was popping.
The seasoned vet and six-time Grammy winner eased into a two-hour set that saw him reach all the way back to 1971 for “Everybody Loves You Now” and then dig out hit after hit. He played his first ever chart-topper, “Piano Man,” as well as “Uptown Girl,” “She’s Always A Woman,” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me.” Appropriately, the crowd welcomed them all with massive reactions.
What was a surprise, however, was when he stepped in front of the piano, apple red guitar in hand, and brought out his longtime crew member Chainsaw for a blistering rip through AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell,” a track he’s performed with Joel many, many times. Hands flew up (most with iPhone cameras open and recording) and everyone was dancing for the set’s only guest star. And as if the song wasn’t enough, Chainsaw’s departure one-upped it. “And that’s how it’s done bitches!” he proclaimed, exiting stage right.
Joel then worked up to “Only The Good Die Young” and closed with a riff-tastic rendition of “Big Shot.”
Joel hasn’t put out new material in 20 years, but based on the palpable delight that seemed to reach festival-goers of all ages, he’ll never actually need to again. Timeless songs are as fun to sway, cheer, and groove to today as they were in 1973 when he first hit the charts.
Elsewhere on the Farm, Sunday’s lineup took a while to gain steam.
Bonnaroovians were slow to emerge from their campsites during the festival’s last day, since the four days of 90-degree heat and late nights took their toll. But fans slowly slid into the afternoon with mother-son folk duo Madisen Ward and Mama Bear, who provided the easiest welcome at The Which Stage. They worked through tracks off their debut album, Skeleton Crew, which dropped last month in front of a very tame crowd—many of whom got comfy sitting in the grass.
The Very Best were the first act of the nearly 100-degree day to get a true reaction from their crowd at This Tent. Smiling and jiving through their Afro-western blend of tunes, it became impossible not to join in, especially as they closed with their 2009 breakout song, “Warm Heart of Africa.”
Florence Welch got to command a festival stage free of crutches—she broke her foot after jumping off Coachella’s main stage this spring—and while she performed with a noticeable limp, she opened the weekend’s penultimate set with “Lay Me Down,” and danced straight into “Ship To Wreck,” off new release How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.
“Are you surviving out there?” she then questioned her sweaty masses. “It’s so hot! Is everyone drinking enough water?”—to which she got a healthy wave of laughter (guess they, like, weren’t?). Welch and her backing band overlapped with Robert Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters, and the decent-sized group that wanted to catch him before Billy Joel’s closing set booked it over to the main stage.