If you’ve never had the pleasure of going to see the Piano Man live, you’ve done yourself a grave disservice. What a great show!
Back in January 2014, Billy Joel started a residency of sorts at Madison Square Garden and with few exceptions, has played one show a month at the world’s most famous arena. One of those exceptions came this past June, when his doctor forced him to postpone the show because of a viral infection. That June show was rescheduled for Dec. 20. It was another sold-out show at the Garden for Joel, and luckily some friends had an extra ticket.
Last night’s show at the Garden was the third time I’ve had the opportunity to see Billy Joel live. The first two times were both at the Carrier Dome up in Syracuse, NY – once in 1998 and once in 2006. While there were very likely less people at last night’s show, seeing my favorite singer at my favorite arena in my favorite City – at Christmastime – it’s just something special. After seeing the concert footage they randomly showed on that episode of ARROW from a few weeks ago, I was pretty pumped to see him live again.
We were in one of the last rows of the Garden, behind the stage, so we missed some of the presentation of the concert. But it didn’t matter. The music made the night and that was all I really needed.
There are very few artists whose entire catalogs I’ve been able to memorize backwards and forwards. Billy Joel may be the only one, actually. Between the main show and the encore, Joel performed more than 20 of songs, frequently allowing the audience to choose between two songs from the same album. From the opening of “Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out on Broadway),” all the way to end of the show, I was singing along. My friends and I were a little disappointed in some of the choices the audience made. One of the perfect calls, though, was picking “Vienna,” a track off of 1977’s The Stranger, and one of my favorites.
Since we were less than a week away from Christmas, Billy Joel and his band played holiday classics in between Joel’s hits all night long. From “Silent Night” to “White Christmas” to “Jingle Bell Rock” (done during the break in “River of Dreams”) the sold out crowd got into the Christmas spirit throughout the show.
Another great perk to seeing the show last night was the special guest. Joel frequently has friends come up and perform with him during his MSG concerts, and this one was no different. About halfway through the main show, he welcomed Steve Miller to the stage, who proceeded to give the audience a choice of songs for him to play. Of course, “The Joker” won out. Here’s a snippet:
The entire set list was filled with amazing moments, as Joel switched from the piano (which he played for the majority of the songs last night) to guitar (like on “Matter of Trust”) to singing and twirling the microphone stand (“It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me”). After performing live for 40-plus years, the man has it down to a science. Even at 68 years old, he knows how to put on an amazing show. I wouldn’t turn down the chance to see him for a fourth time.
Unlike the other Billy Joel show’s I’ve been to, he didn’t play “Piano Man” to close out the show after the encore. He actually closed out the main show BEFORE the encore with his most famous song. But we’re going to be traditional today and end things with “Piano Man.”
Merry Christmas everyone. And don’t take any shit from anybody!