A Matter of Trust: The Bridge to Russia

Billy Joel

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A Matter of Trust: The Bridge to Russia Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

As Mikhail Gorbachev's Glasnost warmed relations between the East and West, Billy Joel was invited to be the first American rocker to perform in the Soviet Union. In the throes of his supporting tour for 1986's The Bridge, Joel jumped at the chance and performed three shows apiece in Moscow and Leningrad, along with an acoustic show in Tbilisi, in the summer of 1987. This tour was documented on the rush-released 1987 live album Kohuept but the 2014 set A Matter of Trust: The Bridge to Russia goes deep, expanding the original double LP/single CD to a double-disc 27-track set, adding 12 unreleased cuts (including a version of the Beatles' "She Loves You" taken from rehearsals), plus a DVD containing video of the full concert and the documentary film A Matter of Trust. This movie, helmed by Emmy winner Jim Brown, does an admirable job of placing Billy's Russian tour in historical context and is often more interesting than the album it supports. The 1987 concert, whether in its original Kohuept incarnation or this expanded double-disc edition, does capture a well-oiled band at its stadium-pleasing best and the set list -- anchored with the classics, featuring three songs from The Bridge, hard rockers tailored for an arena, covers of Beatles and Dylan, plus a doo wop interlude -- is satisfying but the performance is just a shade too polite, a problem that could either lie at the feet of a band eager to not offend or an audience not feeding back appropriate energy. The music is pleasant but lacks spark, leaving the movie as the true document of the excitement that greeted Billy Joel when he toured the U.S.S.R. in 1987.

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