SCENES FROM A BILLY JOEL CONCERT
Billy Joel played Madison Square Garden (QRO venue review) on Friday, April 18th as part of his yearlong monthly residency there.
SCENE 1: 64
Joel is 64 years old; he prefaced playing The Beatles’ “When I’m Sixty-Four” by saying that he never wanted to look like his dad, but that it was inevitable.
Joel started his first band in 1964 and remarked that it is his 50th year in the entertainment industry.
After seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, Joel decided to pursue a career in music. In an interview he said of the group’s impact, “That one performance changed my life … Up to that moment I’d never considered playing rock as a career. And when I saw four guys who didn’t look like they’d come out of the Hollywood star mill, who played their own songs and instruments, and especially because you could see this look in John Lennon’s face – and he looked like he was always saying: ‘F— you!’ – I said: ‘I know these guys, I can relate to these guys, I am these guys.’ This is what I’m going to do — play in a rock band’.”
SCENE 2: INFLUENCES
- Segued “River of Dreams” into “A Hard Day’s Night” and back into “River of Dreams”
- Acknowledged Frankie Valli’s influence on “Uptown Girl”
- During “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” he did subtle hip gyrations and stances as a tip of the hat to Elvis; he also let the mic stand nearly fall away from him to the floor and then pulled it back to sing the next line
- “Your Song” acknowledged his touring days with Elton John
SCENE 3: BROTHERS IN ARMS
“I was in New York on 9/11, and it had a devastating impact on me,” he said. “I went into a deep depression and started drinking. I lost faith in humanity.” So what restored his faith? “That girl who was shot by the Taliban [Malala Yousafzai],” he says. “She is the antidote. We need people like that. I get inspired by people like that.”
During “Goodnight Saigon” he was flanked by seven members of the NYFD on the left and seven members of the NYPD on the right.
Heads down, arm in arm, they remained still and quiet until the chorus, singing, in unison:
And we held on to each other
Like brother to brother
We promised our mothers we’d write
And we would all go down together
We said we’d all go down together
Yes we would all go down together
SCENE 4: BILLY JOEL IS FUNNY
“Saw Ted Nugent use it (throat spray) – it didn’t make him sound any better. Should’ve sprayed it up his ass.”
“There’s a lot of manic depressives here!”
“I haven’t done this one in a long time. I hope I remember it.”
After finishing “She’s Got a Way” (which includes the following verse) he deadpanned, “And then we got divorced”:
She’s got a smile that heals me
I don’t know why it is
But I have to laugh when she reveals me
She’s got a way of talkin’
I don’t know why it is
But it lifts me up when we are walkin’ anywhere
SCENE 5: IT’S THE DETAILS THAT MATTER
- Changed one word in “The Piano Man”:
It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday Friday
And the manager gives me a smile
‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been coming to see
To forget about life for a while
- His piano was on a turntable so everyone could get an unobstructed view
SCENE 6: THE ENTERTAINER
Even though he has sold over 150 million albums, he stopped writing and releasing pop/rock material after 1993’s River of Dreams (with the exception of the 2007 songs “All My Life” and “Christmas in Fallujah”).
“Just because I can put out albums and the record company would release them and people would buy them, that don’t mean I should,” he said.
“The Entertainer” is a cynical and somewhat satirical look at the fleeting fame of a musician and fickle public tastes and was released on 1974’s “Streetlife Serenade”.
Today I am your champion
I may have won your hearts
But I know the game, you’ll forget my name
I won’t be here in another year
If I don’t stay on the charts
In 2013, Joel received the Kennedy Center Honors, the nation’s highest honor for influencing American culture through the arts.
So much for fleeting fame.
Billy, you’re more than just an “entertainer” – you’re what’s right about music.