Mike DelGuidice & Big Shot
Bergen Performing Arts Center – Englewood, NJ – 2/17/23
Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf
I’d venture to say I was in the minority at Bergen Performing Arts Center on the night of February 17th….one of few who hadn’t previously experienced the incredible musical abilities of Mike DelGuidice beyond the Billy Joel stage.
While there are many band members on stage at a Billy Joel concert, and everyone is there to see and hear the one and only Billy Joel, it’s hard not to notice DelGuidice performing beside Joel, particularly when his beautifully powerful vocals are showcased during a solo of Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma.”Having been fortunate enough to attend a Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden on more than one occasion, DelGuidice’s voice, musicianship and overall stage presence left a memorable impression on me.
Long before DelGuidice found his way onstage with Billy Joel, he was playing Joel’s music with his tribute band Big Shot (formed in 2000), across Long Island, NY, the childhood home of both DelGuidice and Joel. Over the years, Big Shot performed hundreds of gigs on “The Island” and built an extensive fan following. After more than a decade, DelGuidice connected with several Billy Joel band members, who were temporarily off the road while Joel recovered post-surgery. Appreciating an opportunity to perform, these musicians played with Big Shot at a number of Long Island performances, ultimately to a connection between DelGuidice and Billy Joel himself. In 2013, the vocalist/musician who grew up listening to Billy Joel’s music, learned to play it as a teenager, and later performed it with his successful Billy Joel tribute band, had the fortune to put use those talents and skills as a member of Billy Joel’s band.
While DelGuidice is familiar to some solely due to his musical role alongside Billy Joel, there are those who’ve been following DelGuidice’s musical trajectory for years, if not decades. These friends and fans revel in DelGuidice’s success. They carry excitement and pride for a hometown Long Island boy who’s been able to expand and share his amazing abilities well beyond the island’s reaches. It was this spirit, energy and overwhelming sentiment that packed the Bergen Performing Arts Center on February 17th…an audience of tried and true Mike DelGuidice fans.
The anticipatory energy in the crowd while awaiting Big Shot’s arrival onstage paled in comparison to the excitement that exploded throughout the theater as the band entered the stage and began to play the unmistakable opening notes of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker’s Street.” Mark Fineberg’s powerfully emotive saxophone skills thrilled audience members, who remained completely engaged as DelGuidice beautifully performed melodic piano notes and impassioned vocals during Joel’s “Miami 2017 (I’ve Seen the Lights Go Out On Broadway).” These poignant numbers gave way to levity, high spirits and a crowd sing-a-long during “My Life.” Throughout the show there was never a song when audience members weren’t singing along; it was just a matter of how many in the crowd joined in. “Vienna,” brought cheers and a smattering of melancholy vocals, while “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” had the entire theater enthusiastically singing in unison about the troubled lives of Brenda and Eddie. There was no shortage of vocalists during the chorus of Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” and more than a thousand voices performed along with DelGuidice as he played acoustic guitar and sang John Denver’s beloved hit, “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
The over 2 hour set additionally included numbers by Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen. “Since we’re in NJ you all always want to hear a song from one particular,” DelGuidice said with a grin, as cheers erupted in the crowd. “Well, there’s one song I will do, though I’m not going to try to sound like him!” DelGuidice chuckled. Performing a beautiful rendition of Springsteen’s classic “I’m On Fire,” DelGuidice sang the heartfelt refrain along with hundreds in the crowd. There was pride on DelGuidice’s face as he spoke of writing his song “Mona Lisa” for his wife, as well as “Where Do the Heroes Go?” to his son. These numbers resonated with the crowd of dedicated fans who reflected back their heartfelt appreciation for DelGuidice’s original work.
DelGuidice’s stage presence was impressive to watch as he easily transitioned from piano, to acoustic guitar, and back to piano, bolstered by the positive energy and expertise of his bandmates. No one demonstrated an intense musical spirit more thoroughly than lead guitarist Tom Jordan, who’s passion was evidenced by his facial expressions, swinging rock and roll hair, and impressive electric guitar jams. Carmine Giglio on keyboards and Mike Sorrentino on drums added energy and electricity, as Giglio danced about behind the keys and Sorrentino’s sticks flew across the drums. Rounding out the band, and adding an additional layer of musical depth were Joe DeJesu on rhythm guitar and Nick Dimichino on bass.
No Billy Joel tribute performance would feel quite complete without playing “Piano Man.” Beyond this being an iconic number, Billy Joel himself is an iconic, quintessential piano man. I came to the performance of Mike DelGuidice & Big Shot at Bergen PAC in the minority, someone who’d only experienced DelGuidice as a member of Billy Joel’s band. However, watching him perform I learned that DelGuidice is also an incredible piano man…..as well as a skilled vocalist, songwriter and overall performer. While many musicians perform FOR an audience, Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot performed WITH the audience. What an uplifting, energetic, musical experience, with some of the best classic rock and pop music. It’s easy to understand why the audience was filled with adoring fans and I have no doubt will continue to be.