In 2013 and 2014, Elio was invited to ‘fill Billy Joel’s shoes’, starring in five very special reunion concerts in the USA with Joel’s original 1971-72 touring band, recreating the historic WMMR Sigma Sounds live recordings. Following on from the huge success of these American shows and along with his magnificent 6-piece band, in March 2014, Elio embarked upon the debut 70-date UK & Ireland tour of his brand new show, THE BILLY JOEL SONGBOOK; the world’s first EVER national, theatre concert tour celebrating the incredible songs and career of Billy Joel.
This powerhouse of a show, was filmed and recorded live on 2nd November 2015 during its second, critically-acclaimed national tour and features over 30 Billy Joel classics including the massive hits, Uptown Girl, Just The Way You Are and My Life as well as fan favourites such as Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Goodnight Saigon and Piano Man.
The Billy Joel Songbook Live album beautifully showcases the electrifying concert performances of the dynamic Elio Pace.
Here are a just a couple of spectacular official reviews from the many The Billy Joel Songbook has received over the years:
"When Elio Pace launches into a medley of just the introductions to Billy Joel songs in order to illustrate the classical roots of many of his compositions, you wonder if he's on a one man mission to reappraise Joel's music in the popular consciousness. There's certainly the possibility that for many, Billy Joel is as well known for the pop fodder of 'River of Dreams' or the uncharacteristically unmelodic 'We Didn't Start The Fire' than for the beautiful melodies and heart-on-sleeve lyrics that marked his earlier career. Even his biggest hit, 'Uptown Girl', seems to have unfortunately branded him as a retro pop lightweight (it was written as a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute) than as a blue collar songwriter easily the equal of Springsteen.
But by this point, 5 or 6 songs into this 2½ hours+ long concert, it's clear that Elio is preaching to the converted. There's little need to win the audience over, they know what they've come to hear and Elio is going to ensure they get it. Thirty-eight Billy Joel songs are promised and if a verse goes astray here and there to cram them all in, no-one is complaining.
Elio's passion for the music is clear, the band are fantastically tight and while the performance purposely doesn't bill itself as a tribute act there is a sense of squint-and-you're-watching-Billy about the evening. He sings with many of the mannerisms of his musical hero but with his own voice, when he improvises on a melody he does so in a way that's characteristically Joel-esque but which also makes the show feel alive rather than just purely replicating the music.
It's not just all the big hits either - there are plenty of album tracks, especially in the first half, and these are often introduced with stories about Joel's career and motivation in writing the songs. The big numbers are played with gusto such as the now (thanks to Glee) anthemic 'New York State Of Mind' and glorious first half closer 'Scenes From An Italian Restaurant'. And while it's perhaps enough just to hear someone handle Billy Joel's ballads competently, the revelation of the performance is possibly the edgy 'Goodnight Saigon' which opens the second half. It's from the album 'The Nylon Curtain' which is very much rooted in American working class life, this song being about Joel's friends who went to fight in Vietnam. It packs an unexpected punch which speaks volumes for the integrity of Elio's delivery.
The mega-hits are saved for the end of the show and having claimed - and quite possibly proved - Joel as 'THE greatest singer-songwriter of the 20th Century', Elio has no hesitation in cajoling the audience onto their feet to dance and sing along as if they were at the school disco. An old-fashioned showman of the best kind as well as a musical connoisseur, you can't help but admire the verve and thought that has gone into a concert that could have suffered in the wrong hands.
What started as a lifelong desire for Elio, to do maybe a couple of dozen dates with the show, has grown to a 70-date tour and prompted demand for a second tour starting next Easter. If you like some of Billy Joel's music it's a good night out, if you're a fan it's absolutely essential."
- Adrian Riley, December, 2014
"At first, you’re not sure what to expect. Some guy fumbling his way through a few Joel songs?
Another not-quite-right ‘tribute’ act?
Then the truth opens up before your eyes and ears.
You see Elio and his band. You listen, you enjoy, you need to remind yourself to keep breathing. “It can’t be this good”, you say, “it just can’t.”
But it is.
There is brilliance, joy and passion here. There is talent from here to the horizon, and fun, and music like you’ve never heard music before. How good is Elio? How high can you count?
It’s a simple enough deal. Elio Pace is a lifelong fan of Billy Joel — the man, the music and the legacy. The show is a celebration of Joel’s craft in words, songs and stories, but it is so much more.
You want singing? Elio has a fantastic, soaring voice that delivers the soul, the melody, the heart of every line and every lyric with astonishing power, depth and richness. It’s a long time since you’ve heard a voice like this, and it’ll be a long time before you hear one like it again. Soothing ballad, full throttle rock n’roll, tender moment, scorching hit… Elio Pace delivers the lot with apparently effortless ease. No straining, no flaws, just old-fashioned diamond talent perfectly set in a jewel of a show.
You want musicianship? Elio only knows or allows one standard: magnificent. His band are as tight as a fat cyclist’s shorts, rehearsed to perfection yet with room for improvisation, good-natured fun and a few of those ‘off script’ moments that happen when accomplished musicians hit their stride and reach for something higher, something more memorable than words can ever describe. They somehow manage to offer complete fidelity to the original Joel recordings while at the same time delivering more, bringing out nuances and touches you didn’t notice until they opened the door.
A few points to note.
First of all, even if you don’t count yourself as a Billy Joel fan, the show still works. It just does. I didn’t recognise half the songs, but this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the show.
Secondly, Elio should teach everyone else in the music industry how to do a soundcheck. Ever been to a show that could have been good, but the sound mix was all over the place and it’s clear nobody on the sound desk really cared? That doesn’t happen on Elio’s watch. He doesn’t mind how long it takes… he gets the sound mix perfect, and I do mean perfect, before each and every show. He insists on this, and you can tell. Listen to Elio and his band all night, and you can hear every instrument, every tone and phrase, with crystal clarity and perfect balance. Other performers, please take note.
One more thing: when Elio sings, you can hear every single word of every song. No mumbles or slurs. No tedious “What was that song about?” moments. Just clarity, served up with feeling, depth and phrasing that stands comparison with the finest singers you’ve ever heard. (I saw Sinatra in his prime. Elio is up there. No kidding.)
Here’s the unspeakable truth at the heart of this thoroughly enjoyable show: Pace himself would never allow the heresy, but the fact is that he delivers these songs just as well as his hero and, in many cases, even better. It’s true. I’ve always loved ‘Scenes From An Italian Restaurant’. It’s a great song, a masterpiece of wit, composition and narrative. When Elio and his band perform it, it’s even greater.
We all know the state-of-the-art with ‘live’ music shows: backing tapes, autotune, fakery, high prices and low standards in big arenas, the focus on marketing and the dollar rather than talent, heart and music. Well, Elio turns the page on all that. Here is talent, here is art, here is know-how and can-do from a supremely talented singer and pianist who is also a master showman. You want to see a happy crowd, thrilled to tomorrow and back, standing, smiling, dancing, laughing and feeling they’re seeing the best show they’ve ever seen? If so, you want Elio and his band.
It was a long show but it was over far too soon. We all filed out into the fading, late summer air. Shadows and murmurs, happy after-shock and shuffling feet. We’d seen the best damned show of them all, and we knew it. Sometimes, with some kinds of greatness, there’s just no room for improvement. Well played, Mr. Pace… well played!"
- Ian Rowland, September, 2016