Kontsert (/kɒntˈsɛərt/) (Russian: Концерт, [kɐnˈt͡sɛrt], commonly read as Kohuept or Kohliept, English: Concert) is the second live album by Billy Joel, released in 1987. The album was recorded during the Soviet leg of Joel’s 1987 The Bridge tour. This album was co-produced by Jim Boyer and Brian Ruggles, and mixed by Jim Boyer.
During the Cold War, rock music was not allowed in the U.S.S.R. because it was not seen as part of Soviet culture. In 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev implemented glasnost—the Soviet policy of managed openness—and the Kremlin invited Billy Joel to perform in the Soviet Union in 1986. Joel, being a history enthusiast, took advantage of this opportunity, knowing that this would impact the history of the Cold War. He was seen as a “nice, safe, first attempt at bringing in an American ‘pop star.'”
The tour of the Soviet Union consisted of six shows, three in Moscow and three in Leningrad. Joel brought his family with him to show the Russians that he felt safe and trusted the Russian people. During the show Joel gave new meanings to songs such as “Honesty.” Each time the song was performed, he dedicated the song to Vladimir Vysotsky because he was an inspirational Russian man who “spoke the truth.”
Because rock concerts were unknown in the Soviet Union, Joel had to invite the crowd to stand and dance. During the second of the three concerts performed in Moscow at the Olympic Sports Complex, Joel flipped his electric keyboard, and broke his microphone stand on his grand piano. While performing “Sometimes a Fantasy,” the audience kept getting attention from spotlights, which angered Joel. He yelled, “Stop lighting the audience!” He then trashed his instruments, overturning his piano and breaking his mic stand. He later claimed that, “People like their privacy. They go to a concert to get that, to be in the dark and do their own thing.”
Joel wanted the audience to feel comfortable, and most of all enjoy the show. To do so, he brought his daughter Alexa Ray Joel and his wife Christie Brinkley on tour with the band. He also crowd-surfed during his performances. While in Leningrad, Billy dove into the crowd during the performance of “The Longest Time.” This was another way for him to show that he trusted the Russian people.
Joel had played a tour in Europe prior to the tour in the Soviet Union, and was being interviewed during the day. As a result, his voice became hoarse. Joel himself stated that he was disappointed by the album, and believes his vocals were not up to par during its production. Despite his opinion, Columbia Records released the album, claiming it was a “historic event.” Joel and his band jokingly refer to the album as “Kaput.”
Prior to this show, rock music was barely gaining ground in the Soviet Union. The implementation of Gorbachev’s glasnost allowed people of the Soviet Union to witness Western Rock. In result, the government had to learn how to put on concerts, while the people of Russia had to learn how to participate in them. Joel’s Russian tour was the first live rock radio broadcast in Soviet History. Joel and his band were one of the first western rock groups to perform in Russia, along with Elton John, James Taylor, and Santana.
While in Russia, Billy Joel and his daughter Alexa met and became friends with a clown named Viktor. The song “Leningrad” would eventually be written about him. This song was released on the 1989 Storm Front album.
Joel went on to say:
The trip to Russia was probably the biggest highlight for me as a performer. I met these people and they weren’t the enemy. I also hoped that the people in America could see what we did. What happens when your kid says to you ‘what did you do in the Cold War, Daddy?’ And now we have something to say. (by wikipedia)
Once he had a decade of uninterrupted multi-platinum albums and had tasted the sweet fruit of the high life, Billy Joel decided that it was time for something different — it was time to get serious. The first hint of this was his celebrated Russian tour in 1987. Not many rock artists had been allowed to tour the U.S.S.R., so this was a big deal. Joel took his task very seriously, embracing his role as musical and cultural ambassador from the West and acting solemnly throughout the tour. Besides the temper tantrum where he pushed his piano off stage, of course, but even that could be seen as a rock & roller taking his message to the people. If you’re charitable, that is. That defining moment of the tour is captured at the end of Kohuept (sadly, it was trimmed for a subsequent CD reissue), a live double-album (single-disc) document of the Russian tour. At the time, it may have been a big event, and personally, it was a turning point for Joel, but musically, it wasn’t much of anything. Supported by an augmented version of his touring band, Joel runs through a predictable selection of hits, drawing heavily from The Bridge, but making sure to hit such favorites as “Angry Young Man,” “Honesty,” “Stiletto,” “An Innocent Man,” “Allentown,” “Only the Good Die Young,” “Big Shot” and “Sometimes a Fantasy.” For topicality’s sake, he adds “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “The Times They Are A-Changin'” to his repertoire. All of it is professionally performed, but most of it sounds like slicker versions of the original studio takes. Still, die-hard fans would want this as a souvenir of a show they were never able to see and perhaps casual fans would want to use this as a de facto greatest-hits collection. (by by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
No, no, no, I Can´t agree with this review. The following review is much beter:
Billy Joel’s tour of the former Soviet Union was truly historic since he was one of the very first American artists to be allowed to perform in the former USSR. This disc very nicely brings us the highlights of Billy’s tour and we get some great tracks to prove that it was very successful!
The track set begins with a Russian piece called “Odoya;” and after that we hear the musical prelude to Billy’s concerts. Billy sounds great on “Honesty;” this classic tune about a man who wants his one true love features great piano by Billy. Billy also sings it quite passionately and the crowd loves every minute of it! “Stiletto” makes the crowd go wild; and the horn solo at the very beginning gets it just right! The drums, percussion, guitar and piano carry the melody and Billy sings this with great sensitivity–great! I think you’ll enjoy this live track of “Stiletto” very much.
“Big Man On Mulberry Street” really rocks as Billy cries out to make this even more passionate. Billy never misses a note and the drums and chorus enhance “Big Man On Mulberry Street” even more! Listen for some great jamming on “Big Man On Mulberry Street,” too. In addition, “Baby Grand” gets the royal treatment from Billy Joel as he delivers this number with panache and sensitivity. The crowd hangs on his every word; Billy’s rapport with his audience is excellent. Good percussion and drums, too.
The mood and tempo pick up considerably for a rocking “Only The Good Die Young;” Billy does this to perfection with some really great guitar! “Uptown Girl” features a nice chorus to backup Billy’s vocals; and they harmonize very well. The energy is perhaps at his zenith when Billy plays the predictable but wonderful “Back In The U.S.S.R.” “Back In The U.S.S.R.” features good vocal backup, great drums and percussion, awesome electric guitar as Billy wails this out while playing piano. Excellent!
The last track on this CD sends the message that Billy recognizes the former Soviet Union was beginning to undergo major social changes; we get the Bob Dylan standard “The Times They Are A Changin’.” Billy does this flawlessly after telling his audience that he believes the U.S.S.R. under Gorbachev was similar to the social changing times in America during the 1960s.
The liner notes include some great color photos taken of Billy and his band during his U.S.S.R. tour–great!
Billy Joel does indeed display his ability to perform as a socially conscious musician on this album. I wish it were a more complete version of perhaps a single concert; maybe in the future we will get that. All in all, this is still a phenomenal live Billy Joel CD; and I highly recommend it for rock and pop fans everywhere. (Matthew G. Sherwin)
Liberty DeVitto (drums, percusion)
Kevin Dukes (guitars)
Russell Javors (guitar, harmonica, background vocals)
Billy Joel – vocals, keyboards piano, harmonica, guitar)
Dave Lebolt (keyboards)
Mark Rivera (saxophone, keyboards, lyricon, background vocals)
Doug Stegmeyer (bass)
background vocals, percussion:
Peter Hewlett – George Simms
The Georgian Rustavi Ensemble of USSR (vocals on01.)
Oleg Smirnoff – on-stage translation
01. Odoya” (Traditional) 1.18
02. Prelude/Angry Young Man (Joel) 5.23
03. Honesty (Joel) 3.58
04. Goodnight Saigon (Joel) 720
05. Stiletto (Joel) 5.09
06. Big Man On Mulberry Street (Joel) 7.17
07. Baby Grand (Joel) 6.09
08. An Innocent Man (Joel) 6.08
09. Allentown (Joel) 4.23
10. A Matter Of Trust (Joel) 5.08
11. Only The Good Die Young (Joel) 3.34
12. Sometimes A Fantasy (Joel) 3.36
13. Uptown Girl (Joel) 3.08
14. Big Shot (Joel) 4.45
15. Back In The U.S.S.R. (Lennon/McCartney) 2.44
16. The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Dylan) 2.57