New Set Revisits Billy Joel's Rocket to Russia


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A constant companion at Joel's side, onstage and off, was the amusing "freelance interpreter" Oleg Smirnoff. He got Joel's spoken points across to audiences, the media and citizens. He reminisces about the time in the documentary DVD.
Others show Joel and his family as high-profile tourists, though free enough to have real conversation with Russians they encounter. From longhaired teen outcasts to hosts who ply them with wine, vodka, and song to one women disapproving of anything to do with rock and roll.

Joel says it was important to bring his family on the trip so Russian could see them are "regular people with families like them," even pulling out a very calm Alexa (sporting protective headphones) during one show.

Of the concert DVD, highlights include "Goodnight Saigon," "An Innocent Man," "The Longest Time, "A Matter of Trust," "You May Be Right" and "Big Shot." Many find Joel at the height of his acrobatic skills, sliding across piano tops, jumping and, in one spontaneous incident, crowd-surfing. There's a look of mixed terror and joy on his face, keeping in mind that Russian audiences had never seen such a thing before. And, not knowing any better, might drop him to the ground in mid-song.

At the end of the concert DVD, Joel tells the Russian audience "Don't take any shit from anybody!" It's a standard farewell he'd ended his shows with hundreds of times before in the United States.

But in 1987 Russia, it meant something quite a bit more. The CD also features Joel's cover of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'" from the Tbilisi show. Fitting words for a country and a people and a time when playing and listening to rock and roll music was akin to committing a crime against the state. Even if that state was rapidly changin'.


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