As Billy Joel plowed through "Keeping the Faith" at the Acura Stage, a roadie armed with a squeegee swept standing water off the top of the black grand piano.
That tells you all you need to know about the weather Saturday evening at the Fair Grounds. A hard, steady rain fell throughout Joel's set. "Why, God, why?" shouted a guy standing in the puddle behind me.
Joel, too, had some questions for the Almighty. More than once, he shook his fist and glared at the foreboding sky. "Is that the best you got?" he shouted at one point. "C'mon, bring it on."
The weather was obviously a distraction for Joel and his band. But being highly paid professionals -- extremely highly paid professionals -- they carried on with a no-frills tour through the leader's extensive catalog of hits: "Don't Ask Me Why." "Allentown." "Movin' Out." "Matter of Trust." "You May Be Right." "River of Dreams," refitted with a few bars of "When the Saints Go Marching In."
The deteriorating conditions called to mind fresh interpretations of various lyrics:
"We didn't start the fire" -- but we'd like to, in order to stay warm.
"A river so deep" -- like the one we're standing in.
"I may be crazy" -- for not seeking shelter.
"Even rode my motorcycle in the rain" -- while leaving Jazzfest.
"Alone in your electric chair" -- can we not talk about electrocution, with all the lightning?
"You've got us feeling all right" -- well, not exactly.
With lightning flashing and the downpour not slacking, Joel's set would finish 30 minutes early (he also started a bit early). For "It's Still Rock 'n Roll To Me," he ventured to the lip of the stage while spinning his microphone stand, rain soaking his black sport coat. He returned to the piano for an epic "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant," stamped with a Max Rivera sax solo.
After "Restaurant," Joel took a bow as Jazzfest producer Quint Davis stepped to the microphone to proclaim this "a show none of us will ever forget." For a moment, Joel seemed unsure if he would be allowed another song.
Of course, he was, and of course, it was "Piano Man." All across the muddy infield, goosebump-covered arms draped across sodden shoulders in a mass singalong. When Joel turned the chorus over to the audience, the rain, as if on cue, fell harder.
By then, it didn't matter. All were wet and cold. Even the Piano Man.
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