SkyDome, Toronto - Mar 29, 1995

JOHN SAKAMOTO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:57 PM ET

They both play the piano. They both write great pop tunes. They've both been around forever.

And, when you think about it, that's about all that Elton John and Billy Joel really have in common.

Having them play together, however - as they did last night to a rapturous sold-out SkyDome crowd of 55,000 - turned out to be anything but a common proposition.

Milking the Brit vs. Yank theme for all it was worth, the stage was emblazoned with a huge painting of the Stars & Stripes on one side, a Union Jack on the other.

Joel, six weeks shy of his 46th birthday and dressed like a aging biker, entered first, to Yankee Doodle.

John, four days past his 48th birthday and draped in what looked like several yards of pink vinyl that had been sprayed with Pam, followed to, well, to be honest, I'm not sure what it was (aside from a famous piece of British music that I should be able to name but can't), and shamelessly showing off a replica of the Oscar he won Monday for Can You Feel The Love Tonight.

What followed was a consummate 3 1/2-hour, 36-song display of pure, old-fashioned showmanship.

With only their pianos for accompaniment, the duo opened by trading off vocals on John's Your Song and Joel's Honesty, before Elton's band joined in for a rousing Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me.

Each then put on a full 13-song set - with a little help from the other - before coming back together at the end for an extended encore that featured everything from The Bitch Is Back and A Hard Day's Night to Great Balls Of Fire and (what else?) Piano Man.

John dipped into the '70s for much of his set, offering up rollicking versions of Philadelphia Freedom, Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting and Pinball Wizard, with brief stops in the '80s (I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues) and '90s (The One, Believe) along the way.

Joel, meanwhile, was in fine form, roaring through Big Shot, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant and It's Still Rock And Roll To Me. He even tossed in an impromptu rewrite of Gordon Lightfoot's Alberta Bound.

Both stars gave ample time to their respective bands, with veterans Davey Johnstone and Ray Cooper shining for John, and guitarist Crystal Taliefero, last seen playing for Bruce Springsteen, a standout for Joel.

As has been the custom on this tour, each performer also covered one of the other's best-known tunes. John turned in a poignant reading of Joel's New York State Of Mind, while Joel did the same for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Aside from the occasional sag in pacing, the sound left something to be desired, though it certainly wasn't the fiasco John endured at the Dome back in '89, after which he offered to play his next show in Toronto for half price. Back then, Joel joked last night, "even baseball sounded bad in here."

The other distraction was John's voice. It's obviously lost some high end, which led to a fair bit of cheating.

As for the fans, they gave their verdict on the singalong to the evening's unofficial theme song: "We're all in the mood for a melody/And you've got us feelin' all right."

SUN RATING: 4 OUT OF 5

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