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Faces & names: Boxed set documents Joel’s 1987 Russia tour

Billy Joel’s tour of Russia in 1987 has long been cited as one of the reasons for the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, as his introduction of rock concerts to the Russian people helped persuade them they wanted more of the Western lifestyle.

That tour is the subject of a new documentary and boxed set collection, “A Matter of Trust: The Bridge to Russia” (Columbia/Legacy), a two-CD, one-DVD package out today that includes 11 previously unreleased songs from the tour. It offers the broadest picture yet of the tour’s impact on the Russian people.

However, Mark Rivera, Joel’s longtime friend and also the only current member of his band who was on the Russian tour, says the new boxed set also tells the story of the impact the Russian people had on the band.

 “They were some of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met,” says Rivera, who recently released his first solo album, “Common Bond.” “They wanted to give us everything. It was amazing to be a part of that as a band member. It’s hard to put the emotions into words. It was emotional what these people were getting from us, seeing that kind of show for the first time. ... They wanted what we had.”

“It’s like what The Beatles did when they came on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ they were the ambassadors to our culture. Billy did that in 1987 in Russia. I don’t say that lightly,” he said.