Billy Joel Madison Square Garden January 11, 2018 Story, photos, and videos By Sharon Budman
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It was a rather chilly winter night in Midtown. I was sitting with my two kids rink-side at the Winter Village at Bryant Park waiting for a special figure skating event. We had just met and took pictures with U.S. Figure Skating Champion Johnny Weir (a highlight for my daughter) prior to his performance that evening. While waiting for it to begin, I scanned the ‘Hub to see what was left for the Billy Joel show at the Garden. My son and I had been actively watching the tickets all week; it was on his bucket list and with his sister also in town, this would be an ideal and fun way to spend a cold night. Sure enough, I entered 3 on the app and these unbelievable seats popped up – Section 107 Row 9, three together on the aisle…. It was meant to be. Tickets bought and away we went. The show was completely sold out. The seats were beyond amazing both price-wise and location. My kids were beaming, as was I. Having seen Billy Joel before in Las Vegas, I knew this would undoubtedly be a real treat. It’s always wonderful to be able to make memories and share good music with my kids.
The show got off to an incredible start. Billy Joel is a multi-instrumentalist, a musical genius in every sense of the word. The performance was completely interactive as he solicited audience participation throughout the evening. Show time was set for 8:00pm, and the band took the stage at 8:27pm and opened the high-energy performance with “Miami 2017” (Seen the lights go out on Broadway) from the 1976 album Turnstiles. Keeping the high energy intact, he went into “Pressure” from his 1982 album The Iron Curtain. Then, Billy Joel began his dialog with the audience. He acknowledged that he was getting up there in age, and will be 69 this year… saying “I just can’t play everything – I’m gonna be 69, but not there yet.”
From this point forward up through the encore, we were taken on an historical musical journey through his music catalog. Since he stated that he couldn’t really play everything, he told us that he wanted us to help make the selections of what they will play since it is our show. The first multiple choice selection was from The Bridge album released in 1986, either “This is the Time” or “Matter of Trust.” The fans selected “Matter of Trust” – the stage hand brought out his guitar and so it began. Billy Joel was thrilled this evening as he announced and congratulated his daughter Alexa Ray Joel on her engagement. She and her fiancé were in the audience. Next up was the 1971 Cold Spring Harbor album and the choice of tune was between “Everybody Loves You Now” or “She’s Got a Way.” Audience choice: “She’s Got a Way”
The dynamic of the show was outstanding. Joel proceeded to describe the following songs were from the 1977 The Stranger album. This album, he explained, had four hit singles but offered the option of the single “Just the Way You Are” or the album track “Vienna.” … and the winner was “Vienna.” One could see that he truly was enjoying the interaction. He told the crowd that the next selection would be from his 1975 Streetlife Serenade album which he said was not a big seller, citing he only had one hit from it so “it must have been a shitty album,” (he said jokingly). The selection was between “Roberta” or “The Entertainer.” By overwhelming applause, “The Entertainer” was the next song to be played. From this point forward, Billy Joel began to introduce his amazing band members to us throughout the rest of the show.
|From New Jersey, DAVE ROSENTHAL||Keyboards, Piano, Organ, Musical Director|
|From the South Side of Long lsland, CARL FISCHER||Trumpet, Trombone, Saxophone|
|From Australia, ANDY CICHON||Bass, Vocals|
|From New Jersey, CHUCK BURGI||Drums|
|From the South Shore of Long Island, TOMMY BYRNES||Guitars, Vocals|
|From Brooklyn, NY, MARK RIVERA||Saxophones, Flute, Harmonica, Percussion, Vocals|
|From Gary, Indiana, CRYSTAL TALIEFERO||Percussion, Saxophone, Harmonica, Vocals|
|From the North Shore of Long Island, MIKE DELGUIDICE||Vocals, Guitar|
As the historical journey continued, Billy explained that in the mid-70’s the record company was driving him to continue to put out album after album and in 1978 he released the 52nd Street Album. The selection choice was between two album tracks which he joked that neither was a hit. The audience chose “Zanzibar” over “Stiletto.” On to the 1980 Album, Glass Houses, when Billy Joel recalled that it was quite fun making this album and so I will give you a choice of a “semi-hit” known as “Sleeping with the Television On” or Don’t Ask Me Why (which was the choice).” At this point, he switched it up a bit going into “Moving Out (Anthony’s Song)” from the 1977 Strangers Album. In 1973, Billy Joel explained that he recorded “Piano Man.” He told a story about a song from the album that doesn’t get much play. It was around this time he had moved from the East coast to the West Coast and wrote a song with a country influence which didn’t exist in NY. He said he was influenced to write a song with a country flair but that it never was a hit single and sang “Stop in Nevada.” The historical trek continued into “Allentown,” “NY State of Mind,” and then back to the audience choices from the 1989 Album Stormfront, the crowd chose “The Downeaster Alexa” over “Leningrad. ” …and then this surprise happened.
In 1989, the guy who produced and wrote hits for Foreigner, Mick Jones, and the lead singer Lou Gramm just happen to be here tonight and he brought them out as special surprise guests. Billy Joel and his incomparable band broke out into the Foreigner hit “Urgent” with Billy Joel on Piano and then Billy Joel gave up his piano to Mick Jones to play “Cold as Ice” as the crowd erupted with joy. The energy level in the Garden was insanely off the charts.
The band regrouped into “My Life.” His 1980’s album Glass Houses was not often played by radio stations as it was labeled too “risqué” at the time referencing the next song “Sometimes a Fantasy.” Billy Joel continued through the rest of the catalog including the following hits: “Always a Woman to Me,” “In the Middle of the Night (River of Dreams),” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” and then “Piano Man.”
It just wasn’t quite over yet. We could NOT get enough. The band cleared the stage for a few moments. The crowd continued to cheer, the night was young, and we wanted more. The band re-appeared on stage for an encore…. And not just a single song encore but an encore consisting of: “We Didn’t Start the Fire” which was accompanied by some unbelievable graphics, “Uptown Girl,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me, “”Big Shot,” “Only the Good Die Young,” “You May Be Right (which had a Led Zepplin “Rock and Roll” reference in it). I gotta tell you, it doesn’t get better than this. What an incredible, high-energy show with tremendous graphics, lighting and sound. We were floored by the special guests. A phenomenal evening was had by all. The Piano Man is a showman for sure; one can see the joy he gets from performing, interacting and pleasing his fans. The tunes are timeless, his voice is strong, and his energy level is high. Billy Joel is at home and he continues to rock the Garden show after show. His band is an incredible group of extremely talented musicians. If you have not seen his show, or if you haven’t seen him in a while, you are missing out. Should you have an opportunity to catch one of his shows, don’t think twice, just do it. You’ll always get your money’s worth. He just doesn’t disappoint!!
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