San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Every little thing they do is magic: Billy Joel and Sting’s rainy night at Petco Park

The duo performed to a sold-out show as part of a co-headlining series and the crowd couldn’t get enough of the music-filled evening
Isabella Biunno
Billy Joel performs at Petco Park on April 13

When Billy Joel sang “It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday,” he wasn’t lying…

The “Piano Man” himself and Sting brought a sold-out, one-night-only performance to Petco Park on April 13, setting up a scene for an ideal Saturday night. 

However, sunny San Diego had other plans. The slight drizzle that began not long after Joel hit the stage quickly turned into a downpour. The ballpark turned into a sea of waterproof ponchos, but the raindrops couldn’t cover the audience’s smiles or dampen their dancing. 

Once again, Joel was right — we really were all in the mood for a melody.

Fortunately for Sting, he just missed this unusual Southern California weather during his nearly 90-minute opening set. To start the night, Joel joined the iconic British musician for a duet of the classic hit Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” While this isn’t the legendary duo’s debut together, it marks their first series of co-headlining concerts beginning back in February 2024 at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

As Joel smoothly exited, Sting wasted no time transitioning into The Police’s “Message in a Bottle,” taking command of the stage. 

The former frontman of The Police delivered dynamic performances of quintessential ‘80s rock songs like “King of Pain” and “Fields of Gold.” He seamlessly blended influences of reggae, jazz and world music in fan favorites such as “Roxanne,” “Englishman In New York,” “Walking on the Moon” and “Spirits in the Material World” (Sting jokingly clarified: “It’s not a Madonna song, I can assure you”).

Between Sting’s impressive bass skills and contemporary reinterpretations of beloved songs like “Shape of My Heart,” interspersed with interludes of Juice WRLD’s “Lucid Dreams,” he played with a talented band featuring backup singers, including Shane Sager — a younger harmonica player who skillfully recreated Stevie Wonder’s harmonica intro of “Brand New Day.” Sting’s set truly felt more like a headline concert than a typical opening act.

What really kept the concert engaging early in the night was the personality and energy that Sting brought to his role as entertainer. At 72, he exuded spirit, captivating the crowd through vocal interactions that elicited enthusiastic responses and even shared a few jokes. Before performing Heavy Cloud No Rain, he glanced at the sky, shook his head and laughed, You can’t trust the weather anymore, which is what this next song is about… 

As the opening chords of “Every Breath You Take” filled Petco Park, it was a collective “wow, this really happening” moment for the audience. This iconic song, one of The Police’s greatest hits, took on a new life when the crowd sang along to every word and Sting (ever the showman) added a personal touch by ad-libbing “San Diego, I’ll be watching you.” It was surreal.

Billy Joel performs in the rain in Petco Park (Isabella Biunno)

And just like that, the stage cleared, and a piano was placed front and center. It was time for Billy Joel.

In an all-black attire complete with a cap, scarf and steaming mug in hand, it was clear Joel wasn’t a stranger to the stage as he settled into his familiar spot on the piano bench. No jitters, just pure comfort. After flashing a quick grin to the audience, he began his magic on “My Life” and “Movin’ Out.” 

Even as the rain poured down shortly into his set, Joel was not letting it stop him. Rising from the rotating grand piano, he made his way to the microphone in the middle of the stage and told the audience Don’t get excited. I ain’t no Mick Jagger and covered the Rolling Stones classic Start Me Up, busting out his best Jagger moves and expressions. 

The crowd was unwavering as Joel and his band performed “Vienna,” which was a dreamlike moment. Hearing the lyrics “Slow down you’re doing fine / You can’t be everything you want to be before your time” in the downpour felt unexpectedly therapeutic and very much needed. They then teasingly transitioned into a rendition of the 1964 Riviera classic, “California Sun,” drawing enthusiastic screams from the audience. Sting also made a return appearance, rocking a full suit and carrying an umbrella as he joined Joel for “Big Man on Mulberry Street.”

Despite Joel’s decades of international rockstar status, he still felt the need to apologize for a few missed notes. Here’s a musician enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, yet his humility remains palpable. It’s evident Joel’s committed to giving his fans his absolute best.

“I didn’t realize when I recorded this that I was saying goodbye to a lot of my high notes,” Joel said when introducing “An Innocent Man.” “If I hit a lot of flat notes, you’re allowed to groan.”

When fans flood to see Joel, they’re not expecting him to sound like he did in the early days. They’re just thrilled to share a space with a living legend. There’s no pressure, no impossible standard to meet — just the pure joy of experiencing his music. He’s 74 years old playing to a sold-out crowd in Petco Park… it’s safe to say he’s earned a few off-notes here and there.

Joel’s set was extensive and diverse, ranging from the show-stopping rendition of “New York State of Mind” to his latest single “Turn the Lights Back On.” He even included “Nessun Dorma,” a Giacomo Puccini cover sung by Mike DelGuidice. 

Of course, the audience went wild for classic hits like “Only the Good Die Young,” “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” and “Piano Man,” where the stadium went dark and was illuminated only by the flashlights in the crowd.

There was a shared sense of nostalgia that floated around the ballpark — not necessarily because of when these songs were released but because of the overwhelmingly positive emotions they evoked: contentment, elation, satisfaction, happiness and joy. Strangers danced with each other, audience members wrapped their partners in their new Billy Joel blankets and concession workers sang in the aisles as they sold churros. Everyone gathered for the same reason. 

“Billy Joel has always, and probably will always, remind me of my parents and growing up alongside them and their love for music,” Claire MacDonald, a third-year marketing major, said. “He’s timeless.”

Before saying goodbye to San Diego, Joel treated the audience to a memorable five-song encore featuring hits like “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Uptown Girl,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “Big Shot” and “You May Be Right,” seamlessly woven with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” and nostalgic glimpses of a young Joel from the iconic music video. 

As he concluded his performance with a few final twirls of his microphone stand, Joel expressed his gratitude to the crowd one last time.

Echoes of the night hung in the air and it became obvious that Joel’s influence as a musical legend spans time. Just as the lyrics from “Piano Man” suggest, Billy Joel isn’t just the piano man for one generation — he’s the piano man for everyone.

About the Contributors
Isabella Dallas
Isabella Dallas, '24-25 Arts & Culture Editor
Originally from San Jose, California, Isabella is currently in her third year at San Diego State University. She is pursuing a major in Journalism, with a minor in Creative Writing. While starting her third year at The Daily Aztec as a Senior Staff Writer, Isabella has discovered her love for covering cultural events and topics with artistic aspects and aesthetic influences. She writes for the Arts and Culture section, where her favorite pieces focus on live music, pop culture, fashion, and differing lifestyles. She can also be found writing about TV, books, and her many other obsessions. When Isabella isn’t sitting at a coffee shop writing articles or reading a new book, you’ll find her devouring the latest issues of Vogue and Rolling Stones. Her only life goal is to one day interview Harry Styles—any leads are gratefully welcomed.
Isabella Biunno
Isabella Biunno, '24-25 Managing Editor, '23-24 Photo Editor
Isabella Biunno (she/her/hers) is a photographer for The Daily Aztec. She is originally from Las Vegas, Nevada where she was a part of yearbook and publications for nearly six years. She is a first-year Psychology major with an emphasis in neuroscience, and she plans to go to graduate school for Occupational Therapy. She loves photography, editing, and creating, and she can’t wait to continue shooting content for the DA. One thing she is passionate about outside of photojournalism is being involved in the disability/Autism community. She is a part of SDSU’s Adapted Athletics club, and she worked as an Instructor at a company back home called Inclusion Fusion where she was able to work with people with disabilities. Although her career-related passions fall in the healthcare field, she enjoys taking pictures and covering photo events just as much. She looks forward to expanding her experience as a photographer as well as capturing some astounding shots this year.