BILLY JOEL: Sax Player Mark Rivera Recalls the 1987 Tour to Russia
Billy Joel’s longtime sax player Mark Rivera calls his boss’ 1987 tour of Russia “a life-changing experience.” The only remaining member of Billy’s band from those historic shows, Rivera recalls how ordinary civilians loved their first taste of American rock and roll, which in a small way helped lead to the end of the Cold War. Two CDs of the music — and the documentary based on the shows — is out this week as A Matter Of Trust: The Bridge To Russia, from Sony Music.
As the music helped connect two cultures that even in the ’80s, had limited contact with each other, Rivera also recalled the opening show — when the front rows were filled with the Communist party hierarchy, whose enthusiasm was extremely restrained. He recalled how fans seated behind them held back their applause and reactions when the camera crew panned the crowd. But the next night, when the party elite weren’t there, the audience loosened up and showed great enthusiasm. Almost too much — Rivera says the fans wrecked the front row of seats. He managed to take one of those seats home to his suburban New York home, where, signed by the band, he’s held onto it as a keepsake.