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Concert Review: Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden

By Brian | January 24, 2006 | Share on Facebook

I’m train-blogging on my way home from the show. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I bought the tickets mostly out of nostalgia, since one of my first real dates with my wife was a Billy Joel concert in Philadelphia (December 18th, 1989, she reminded me tonight). Just over 15 years later, my expectations for the now 58-year old Joel were quite low. Then I saw a few setlists & realized that this was an oportunity to hear live performances of songs I’d never heard live before.

On that score, the show did not disapppoint. He sang Everybody Loves You Now, Stiletto, Zanzibar (with a truly kick-ass flugelhorn solo, followed immediately by an even more kick-ass trumpet solo – both by the same guy), Great Wall of China (dedicated to his ex-manager – if you don’t know why, go check out the lyrics), All for Leyna, and She’s Always a Woman in addition to the standard fare of Greatest Hits material.

As to the quality of the show, there’s just no getting over the fact that the man is getting older. Some of the harder rock tunes fell a little flat (like Pressure, Big Man on Mulberry Street, which slowed down dramtically as it went on, and All For Leyna, which was a nice concert rarity, but required so much concentration from Joel that he never once looked up from the lyrics tele-prompter or even ventured a smile). Other songs, though, he pulled off quite nicely, including Big Shot, You May Be Right, It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me, Angry Young Man and I Go to Extremes. He also sang all the high notes on Innocent Man himself, something he hasn’t done in years (my wife pointed out that his new-found sobriety might have been the enabler there).

UPDATE: A listen to Billy Joel – 12 Gardens Live reveals another reason – see this blog post for more.

Being a piano player myself, my favorite part of the concert is watching Joel’s hands on the keyboard, which I consider almost as educational as it is entertaining. Tonight’s seats, third row just behind & to the left of the stage provided a great view (nice job, Jason!). I was surprised to see that he’s changed his style of play significantly. He no longer bangs the living hell out of the piano like he used to. Now, it looks much more like the old cliche – “tickling the ivories.”. There were far fewer piano riffs/solos than there had been in years past, but what he did play sounded great, even if it wasn’t as dramatic as it used to be.

Also on a musical note (groan…), the band itself was a nice reunion. Rich Cannata and Tommy Byrne were back, so we got to hear all the original sax & guitar solos from the Turnstiles and Glass Houses days, not to mention some great horn section work by Cannata, Crystal Taliefero, and Mark Rivera on songs such as Keeping the Faith, Movin’ Out, and Only the Good Die Young. A surprise to me was the absence of Liberty DeVitto who, according to someone sitting in our section, had a falling out with Joel over a book Liberty’s writing that apparently goes into a little too much detail about Billy’s days of drinking and drugs. My section-mate claims that Liberty wasn’t even invited to Billy’s latest wedding. As the man says, “melodrama’s so much fun…”

Finally, there were those special concert moments that make the price of a ticket worthwhile. We had modern day commentary in the lyrics of Zanzibar:

Rose he knows he’ll never make the Hall of Fame;
And the Yankees grab the headlines every time.

…and a nod to his recent dalliances in Scenes from an Italian Restaurant:

A bottle of white;
A bottle of red;
Perhaps a bottle of Ginger Ale instead.

…and even some political commentary from the crowd during the Piano Man finale:

Now Paul is a real estate novelist;
Who never had time for a wife.
And he’s talking with Davy, who’s still in the navy;
(crowd screams much louder than the rest of the verse:)AND PROBABLY WILL BE FOR LIFE

All in all, the show did not disappoint. It was as nostalgic as I hoped it would be, but not in that awkward, “wow, things have really gone downhill” way that I had feared. With a few exceptions, Billy Joel and his band sounded fantastic and put on a high energy, entertaining show. Yes, he shuffles around the stage instead of running, and stops for a swig of water between every song (and occasionally during someone else’s solo). But no one else in the world can make that music sound that good, and on the whole, I’m glad he’s still doing it. Bravo, Billy, and thanks for the memories.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Came looking for info on Billy Joel and only got a concert review? Check out the I Should Be Sleeping Billy Joel FAQ! Inspired by Googlers like you!)

UPDATE: I see from my server logs that over 500 of you have read this review. God Bless Google! In any case, welcome to my blog. If you like what you read, please feel free to leave a comment and/or look around a bit.

UPDATE #2: Readership on this post is approaching 2,000 users. Glad you stopped by! If you liked what you read, please feel free to look around. Billy Joel enthusiasts might appreciate my reviews of the My Lives box set (Disc 1, Disc 2, Disc 3, Disc 4) in particular. Or, just check out the main page and go from there. Enjoy, all!

UPDATE #3: Well over 3,500 7,500 pageviews now. Good lord, this thing’s getting some mileage. Seriously, though – look around. Stay awhile. What’s your hurry? You just got here…

Topics: ISBS Reviews, Words about Music | 66 Comments »

66 Responses to “Concert Review: Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden”

  1. starbender says at January 24th, 2006 at 1:27 am :
    Sounds great!

  2. Anonymous says at February 3rd, 2006 at 11:42 pm :
    mitch@rmspec.com Saw the Joel concert last night. Excellent show. High energy. Oldies like Zanibar, Only the good die young, and Stilleto were worth the price of admission alone.

  3. Brian says at February 8th, 2006 at 12:10 am :
    Good to hear. I might wind up with another ticket. Based on what I’ve seen & heard, I think I’d go again

  4. Mark Shepperd says at February 15th, 2006 at 2:09 pm :
    My wife and I caught Billy’s 1st night show (2/14) at the Wachovia Center in Philly. GREAT SHOW – I was wondering what happened to Liberty DeVito, did not hear that story about him and Billy having a falling out – that’s a shame, they were together since the start. The guy that was there was pretty tight though gotta give him that. We have tix to see him again in March back in Philly – can’t wait!

  5. Brian says at February 15th, 2006 at 8:01 pm :
    Agreed – I think that drummer has played with him before (I forget what the circumstances were). After the initial conversation about Liberty not being there, I can’t say I really noticed during the show itself.

    All that being said, I must admit – I’ll probably buy & read the book now…

  6. Anonymous says at February 16th, 2006 at 11:15 pm :
    Does he use a rotating stage?

  7. Brian says at February 19th, 2006 at 9:45 am :
    Does he use a rotatting stage?

    The grand piano is on a rotating platform, but it’s not constantly turning (only during certain songs). There are, however, two keyboards in the two back corners of the stage, and he uses those for a couple of songs each, so he plays to the back of the audience (those behind the stage). Basically, his standard setup for many years now.

    All of this, plus the requisite video screens throughout the house make for good viewing no matter where your seats are…

  8. Anonymous says at February 26th, 2006 at 9:38 pm :
    how long is the show?

  9. Brian says at February 26th, 2006 at 10:04 pm :
    He went on around 8:30pm, and finished up before 11pm. Just over two hours of music – 26 songs.

  10. Robyn says at February 27th, 2006 at 12:16 pm :
    Was there an opening band?

  11. Brian says at February 28th, 2006 at 12:01 am :
    Was there an opening band?

    No. In all the years I’ve been seeing Billy Joel perform, I’ve never seen him have an opening band.

    Typically, a classical piece plays through the loudspeakers, halway through the house lights go out, and when the classical music reaches a crescendo it cuts off, the spot hits Billy, and he goes off into a hard rocking opening number (Angry Young Man, in this case).

    I’m also told that in recent shows, a guy from his road crew has been coming on stage with a guitar and performing Meat Loaf’s Highway to Hell. The one person I know who saw it said it was done as kind of a joke, but it was pretty entertaining. It happens in the middle of the show, so it’s not an opening act, but it is someone other than him singing…

  12. Anonymous says at March 1st, 2006 at 6:16 pm :
    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the re-cap of the show. I was looking for a playlist from the Philly gig (on Feb 14th) nad came across your article via Google.

    I think you accurately captured the quality of the show and of Joel’s current abilities.

    This was my first opportunity to see Billy live, so I can’t compare this to other prior performances. But based upon his recent drinking and perosnal issue, I was expecting a much less enthusiastic performance. OFr my money, it one one of the best ocnerts I’d seen in years.

    Thanks agian for your re-cap.

  13. Yoram says at March 4th, 2006 at 8:55 pm :
    Hi all,

    It was my first time to see Billy live (MSG on 3/2/06), and for someone who grew up on his music it was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. what was admiring is the fact that he could go up in pitch to what he was capable of some 20 years back. go to see him if you get a chance, well worth the money.

    …And yes, we had ‘Highway to Hell’ as well… very entertaining…

  14. Brian says at March 5th, 2006 at 1:03 am :
    In the interest of full disclosure, my friend Steve points out that Highway to Hell is AC/DC, not Meat Loaf (that’s Bat Out of Hell).

    What can I say? Oh, hell…

  15. Anonymous says at March 7th, 2006 at 7:52 pm :
    HI – Great Review – I’m going to see the Piano Man this weekend in Hartford!

  16. Brian says at March 9th, 2006 at 9:18 pm :
    Suz – thanks for stopping by. Enjoy the show!

  17. Anonymous says at March 9th, 2006 at 10:49 pm :
    drove from Pittsburgh for 3/2 MSG show, and going to 3/30 Philly show. I still can’t believe I got to see him.

  18. JOYCE says at March 10th, 2006 at 10:55 am :
    I need a quick response on this:

    I love Billy Joel – last saw him in Long Island on his farewell tour in 2001??? He was using the lyrics prompter, but still had great energy, and we loved it.

    My question: we have tickets for his show tonight (March 10th). Aside from mentioning his recent sobriety and PC “still in the navy” lyrics, will it essentially be the same show as his last tour (NOT the one with Elton John). I ask because if it is, I might give my tickets to someone who has never seen him live.

    Need opinions FAST!!

    Thanks — Joyce

  19. Brian says at March 10th, 2006 at 7:21 pm :
    Sorry, Joyce – I saw your message during the work day & tried to respond, but Blogger was down and didn’t let me post.

    I hope you went to the show. The setlist has changed significantly since the last time he toured, given his focus on some older material. It’s highly unlikely you saw him do songs like Zanzibar, Stilletto, All for Leyna, Sleeping with the Television On, or She’s Always a Woman in the previous show.

    If you do come back, drop a line & let me know if you went & what you thought of it. I’ll try to check my comments more often, especially on popular posts like this one…

  20. Joyce says at March 11th, 2006 at 9:38 am :
    I didn’t go. I gave my tickets to someone who’d never seen him before.

    It’s ironic — in December I saw Tony Bennett for the 3rd time in the past 28 years — and he was the absolute BEST in this most recent tour. Passion, heart, indescribable lyric expression, breath control effortless – and you would think we were the first audience who ever stood up for him.
    Not once did I feel I was watching the ghoost of a man who used to be (as I did when I saw Sinatra late in his career). I watched a man still on top of the world.

    Billy Hoel — what can I say about a man whose heart is open to the point of breaking with sorrow or joy and expresses it with energy and beauty. Did you ever notice that no one else does his songs? Is it a copywright thing or is it that no one else could?

    Tony once answered the question – don’t you ever get tired of singing “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” with the answer – do you ever get tired of making love?

    I’m a pianist, not a singer, but man, I love them both. So someone got to see Billy Joel last night – that’s ok with me, I can hear new songs easily, and I know what he’s like – he’s like no one else.

  21. Brian says at March 11th, 2006 at 6:02 pm :
    Joyce – sorry you missed the show, but I’m glad you’re happy with your decision.

    Re: Tony Bennett – I’m a fan as well, but I haven’t seen him live. Hearing him sing now, though, it occurs to me that his music is suited to a guy his age, and it comes across very naturally when he performs. Makes me wonder if he sounded like an “old soul” when he was younger.

    Re: people covering Billy Joel’s music – there have been quite a few covers, actually. Tony Bennett, ironically, recently did a version of New York State of Mind, and while I prefer the original, he did a nice job with it. Garth Brooks had a huge hit with Shameless, even moreso than Joel did the first time around. And then, of course, there was the band from the Broadway show Movin’ Out (I forget the guy’s name – Michael something), who did a pretty good job at covering the entire catalog.

    The majority of Joel’s music can’t really be covered that well simply because there aren’t that many people out there who play the piano that well. Elton John’s an exception, of course, but he’s chosen to tour with him rather than record his music. Good move, I think…

  22. Joyce Deschamps says at March 12th, 2006 at 12:29 pm :
    If you get a chance to see Tony, grab it.

    “Movin’ Out” left me cold. Maybe it’s because the lyrics are so important to Billy Joel’s music. I felt I was drinking champagne but wasn’t allowed to swallow. Best part – listening to the music of “Big Man on Mulberry Street”. How many different styles of music are incorporated into that song? I get lost in it, especially the big band sound — fantastic number. Hard to play on the piano (but I keep trying).


  23. Anonymous says at March 17th, 2006 at 10:39 am :
    Saw Billy Joel last night in Washington at the Verizon (aka MCI) Center. It was much as you described his MSG event. Totally awesome. I was struck by how great his voice and piano still are. I am touched to write because one of my first dates with my later-to-be be (now late) husband was when Billy Joel played live in our college auditorium as a — WARM UP ACT! And, after listening to his music for the last 30+ years, it wasan amazing and totally different experience to hear it all live. And you know, “shuffling” instead of “running” through a 2 and 1/2 hour set with no breaks for a 56 year old aint bad! — Carol, Bethesda

  24. Anonymous says at March 18th, 2006 at 10:36 pm :
    …I also caught the show this week at DC’s MCI/Verizon Center and thought it was terrific! We were a bit concerned at the beginning because the opening songs were a bit TOO obscure – but then the magic began to happen and the crowd was on their feet singing along for much of the long concert. Lot’s of Boomers standing proud in the audience cheering on a compadre who really made us feel like maybe 60 WAS the new 30! Great lighting also! We found the use of cell phones in place of the old standby Bic Lighters amusing. — Barbara, Maryland

  25. Brian says at March 20th, 2006 at 12:05 am :
    Barbara – here, here on the cellphone thing. Just before the last encore, the sight of ten thousand cell phones/blackberries lighting up Madison Square Garden had me laughing heartily…

    I also noticed that when he gets near the audience, rather than everyone putting their hands out for a handshake/high-five like they used to, everyone’s just pointing their cell phones at him. Must be very strange for the performer as well as the viewing audience…

    At any rate, glad you enjoyed the show…

  26. Harry says at March 24th, 2006 at 2:02 pm :
    First, I can’t believe I ended up at at one of these narcissistic blogs by googling Billy Joel and Highway to Hell. Second, I cannot believe you just attributed “Highway to Hell” to Meat Loaf for crissakes. It’s AC/DC man, holy crap that was the last album with the late Bon Scott on vocals before he drowned in his own puke!!

    Oh yeah, saw Billy in Philly 3/20, great show.

  27. harry says at March 24th, 2006 at 2:06 pm :
    ….and can we resume bringing lighters to concerts from now on? Sheesh!

  28. Brian says at March 25th, 2006 at 1:20 am :
    Narcissistic and lovin’ it, Harry. Glad you stopped by.

    And yeah – I confused Highway to Hell with Bat Out of Hell. It happens…

  29. Anonymous says at March 26th, 2006 at 10:52 am :
    Hello All,

    I am just waking up and dusting the sleep off from last nights show at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse and to credit you all that posted reviews here, it was stellar! By far one of the finest set lists I have heard Billy perform to date. All of the standards were performed that he has been playing, plus he included Summer HIghland Falls as an ode to manic deprerssion, Vienna which was much to my delight as I’ve heard it on other live albums but never in person and much to everyuones delight, Captain Jack. And to trump all that, during We Didn’t Start the Fire I kept thinking I saw the forks a bike on the back of the stage between the drum kit and percussion set up, and at the end of the song the camera panned back revealing Paulie Sr. sitting on a bike that he and the other two boys from O.C.C. was present to Billy for the first time in public which they named the Billy Bob. The presentation certainly rejeuvenated Billy for the rest of the night and the final songs were magical. Great songs, great sound, fantastic lighting, lets hope the Piano Man keeps tickling the ivories for quite some time to come.

  30. Brian says at March 28th, 2006 at 2:34 pm :
    A little Googling help for those reading outside of the Syracuse area. O.C.C. apparently stands for “Orange County Choppers,” a local motorcycle enthusiast group that built Billy Joel’s “dream bike” and presented it to him at the concert.

    Very cool move. Given his recent history, I hope they included a seat belt and a breathalyzer-enabled starter lock.

  31. Anonymous says at March 31st, 2006 at 5:40 am :
    thanks mate… nice review!.. am considering buying a ticket for the London show at wembley, as a kid was obsessed with BJ, wanna make sure he doesnt taint my memories of watching the yankees stadium gig on video repeatedly..

    Joel (funnily enough)

  32. Brian says at April 2nd, 2006 at 10:48 am :

    Always nice to have international visitors stopping by – glad you liked the review.

    As I hope the review showed, he’s older, and the show is different now, although not necessarily worse. As long as you don’t go in excpecting a repeat of what you see on video, I think you’ll enjoy it tremendously.

  33. VeganFred says at April 2nd, 2006 at 9:16 pm :
    Took a few Googles to finally nail down the info you provided. Thanks. Have been thinking long about going to the L.A. show, but needed to know if there was an opening act, and the start time. As I normally work until 8, I may have to swap shifts with the earlier guy, go home to take care of the dogs, then head to the show. Too bad the gal pal is outta town.

    Thanks a bunch for the details.

  34. Anonymous says at April 3rd, 2006 at 3:39 am :
    Thanks for this blog, and thanks to whoever mentioned the Syracuse show. I am from there and find that bike a great gift to a guy who’s done a lot for music and music education in Syracuse. I was rather jealous when a friend said she got tickets because I didn’t think Billy Joel would come to Europe, then this morning I saw the poster for the Frankfurt show and after reading the review and comments on this page have decided that tickets are a must. Better hurry before the US soldiers stationed here buy ‘em all up. Will bring a pack of tissues in case Good Night Saigon is part of the set…


  35. Brian says at April 3rd, 2006 at 11:44 pm :
    Karen – Goodnight Saigon has been part of all the US shows, so I’m guessing it’ll show up in Europe.

    I’m glad the review was helpful…

  36. Anonymous says at April 11th, 2006 at 11:07 pm :
    Had a blast at the L.A. shows. Even got a bargain on eBay, 2 tickets for only $78. Thanks for providing the info I needed to decide to go. I highly recommend the show to others. Even on the side of the stage, the piano rotates every few minutes to face the other side, so you get a good few from wherever you are.


  37. Brian says at April 11th, 2006 at 11:26 pm :

    Glad I could help. Congrats on the cheap tickets & I’m glad you enjoyed the show.

    It’s funny – I remember when Billy Joel used to complain from the stage about how people had to pay MORE than face value for his tickets (“Scalp the Scalpers”). These days, we use a global computer network to find out if we like the show, find someone else who’s willing to part with the tickets cheap, and then provide reviews for others that might be interested.

    To paraphrase a well-known tune, I Love These Days…

  38. Anonymous says at April 14th, 2006 at 3:45 pm :
    I’ve never blogged before – but this one was too good! Thanks Brian!

    I grew up in Syracuse — There’s no place like the Carrier Dome to see Billy Joel. I last saw him during the River of Dreams Concert — FRONT ROW — while at Le Moyne College. Everyone touched him but me – at 5’1, I couldn’t reach darn it.

    We’re going to his concert this evening at the MCI/Verizon Center in DC with my husband — his first Billy Joel concert. Billy Joel is one of the few musicians we “share” and we even used “You’re My Home” just 10 months ago as our wedding song! I think that song is pretty obscure because I never heard it before hearing it on ITUNES last year when I was SEARCHING for a song we would both like. It’s not easy to dance to…especially when you don’t dance well…but we thought it was perfect for us! I’m sure he won’t sing that one — but it would be a dream come true if he did! Thanks for hosting us Billy Joel fans!

  39. Brian says at April 15th, 2006 at 1:19 am :
    Funny thing about the Carrier Dome – it’s so huge, it’s not surprising to hear different reactions from different parts of the arena. I saw Joel there years ago, and we were sitting near the half-court line, in the upper section (lousy seats). The acoustics were so bad it was like listening to him on a cheap transistor radio. I can imagine that problem doesn’t exist in the front row.

    As for “You’re My Home,” that’s a fantastic song. When I used to travel on business, I used to play it when I was missing my wife & kids:

    If I travelled all my life,
    and I never got to stop and settle down;
    Long as I have you by my side,
    there’s a roof above and good walls all around.
    You’re my castle, you’re my cabin, you’re my instant pleasure dome;
    I need you in my house, ’cause you’re my home.


  40. Brandon says at April 16th, 2006 at 12:02 am :
    I saw him in Boston earlier this year….I’m right there with ya, for 56 years old he def. did a heck of a job, and seeing rich back was even better…I had floor seats for this one, I don’t think it can be topped…Left me in a state of bliss!!!

  41. Anonymous says at April 16th, 2006 at 10:38 am :
    Saw Billy in DC Firday Night at the Now Verizon Center. He was excellent and played nearly three hrs. Not bad after a year of Rehab. Being a drummer, the new guy did a pretty good copying Liberty, it would be nice to develope your own take on songs. All in all everybody sounded tight and Billy’s voice was in top form- If you can catch a show I highly recommend it-AL MD

  42. Brian says at April 17th, 2006 at 1:05 am :
    AL MD,

    If they were playing new material, I’d love to see the guy develop his own take/style with it. But this stuff is already out there (some of it for 30 years or more). I think the best he can do at that point is blend with the band and re-create the sound everyone came to hear…

    Unless, of course, the whole band (read: Billy Joel) wanted to put a new spin on something, then he gets a chance to really show off his chops…

  43. Anonymous says at April 18th, 2006 at 4:37 pm :
    Thanks for this blog it ahs been great to share in everyones experiences. i went to the DC show last week and my friends and i were upgraded to front row by billy’s staff. it changed the whole experience completely! i had seen him before but this was amamzing! we were right in front of the bass guitar player and have been trying to find out who he is. any clue? i got one of his picks and would love to know what the signature says.

    i don’t know that i will ever have as much fun as i did at this concert.


  44. Brian says at April 18th, 2006 at 11:50 pm :

    my friends and i were upgraded to front row by billy’s staff

    OK, not to presume too much, but at least in the old days, the people that got bumped up to the front row were young, attractive, enthusiastic girls that would make the show more fun for Joel and look good in the videos (if they were shooting). Obviously, I don’t know if you fit that description, but it’s a safe bet that you and your friends should take the whole experience as a compliment.

    we were right in front of the bass guitar player and have been trying to find out who he is. any clue? i got one of his picks and would love to know what the signature says.

    His name is David Rosenthal, and he actually has a really good website with pictures, setlists, tour information, audio, etc. Check it out…

    Glad you enjoyed the show (and the blog…)

  45. Anonymous says at April 21st, 2006 at 6:05 pm :

    What a great review- sounded real- not all sugar!! After 30 years of listening to the great man, I finally got Billy Joel concert tickets today!! [wow, lloks like I won't go to my grave an angry old man...well, because of not seeing BJ anyway!!].

    Thanks to Google and your fab review, I now have a good idea of what to expect…and, boy, am i looking forward…and as the great Bill might say- hot punk, cool funk, even if it’s old junk it’s still Billy Joel to me!!
    Thanks again. Meic- the Isle of Man [mid-way between England and Ireland]

  46. Karen says at May 9th, 2006 at 8:47 am :
    Thank you so much for these reviews, I am even more excited about the concert on 29th July, we’re travelling down from Belfast to Dublin! I’m going with my husband whom I introduced to Billy Joel by playing his music constantly & also my uncle who introduced me to Billy Joel in 1983 when An Innocent Man was released.

    Just reading about the songs he sang has made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, imagine how i’ll be when he’s actually singing in front of me !!

    Thanks again, i’ll be keeping an eye for further reviews up until my concert.

  47. Anonymous says at May 18th, 2006 at 1:16 am :
    I had the chance to sit in on his soundcheck for the last of the MSG shows and he was even better during that than during the show (which was pretty good in the first place). Watching them put “Laura” into place was cool, but it was Billy’s humor that cracked me up. He kept changing all the words, or calling out altered song titles for the band to go into…so “Honest” became “Sodomy,” then later there was “Only The Egg Fu Yung,” and “You’re My Homo.” A frickin’ riot.

  48. Brian says at May 21st, 2006 at 11:21 am :
    Anonymous: back in the old days of local, Long Island radio, Billy used to do interviews during his soundchecks on WLIR. A friend of mine recorded a few of them on casette tape (remember the old “boom-boxes” that had radio & tape in the same device?). Anyway, they’re hysterical as well – the highlight being an entire “song” that Billy wrote about getting stuck in traffic on the way to the Nassau Collesium (“The only good thing about the red lights – ba dum de da dum – is that I got to stop at Roy Rogers – ba dum de da dum – and take me a pee…”). Hard to explain, I guess.

    Anyway, it sounds like the MSG soundcheck was just as entertaining. He’d never record/release any of them, because they tend to be off-color and would eventually degrade the songs themselves, but I would definitely pay for a collection of these things.

    I’ve heard about “Sodomy” (Liberty DeVitto’s invention, btw), and “You’re My Homo,” but “Only the Egg Fu Yung” is a new one to me.

    I also saw him at a Q&A session once, where he explained how “Just the Way You Are” became “She Got the House, She Got the Car” at soundchecks, at which point, he stopped playing it in concert. ;-)

  49. Anonymous says at July 9th, 2006 at 6:50 pm :
    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been a fan for more years than I care to mention. My friends think I am mad, obviously they have no taste. I’ve talked one loyal friend into coming along with me (even paid for her ticket). I can’t wait. Glasgow 25th and Billy Joel, after all these years. I even have a signed photo from his fan club.

  50. richard says at July 15th, 2006 at 4:35 am :
    Have just seen BJ at Birmingham NEC in England. Wow! Great to hear some back catalogue songs – they sound like they could have been written yesterday.(He played 26 songs!)
    Billy’s voice sounded as good, if not better than when we saw him back in the early 80′s at Wembley. Credit also to the sound and lighting crew. The sound in particular was crystal clear and the balance between vocals/piano/band was just right.

    The band were exceptional, as always. Chuck Burghi has fitted in perfectly with the band and plays the arrangements true to the originals but yet manages to stamp some of his his own style and technique on these timeless songs. Billy once said that when Liberty Devitto packs up, so will he. That may have been a mis-quote but I am glad he didn’t stick to it!
    Only downside was the price of a program (souvinir brochure) which were £15 (about £24 US dollars! I didn’t buy one but instead, when we got home, I ordered a copy of ’12 Gardens’ off Amazon, for less money! (It’s a great CD by the way) I’ll buy a program off Ebay!

    Thank you for your very interesting site, Brian. BJ’s keyboard player/aranger David Rosenthal has a good site with lots of Billy Joel coverage, set lists etc (but I expect you knew that already!)

    Richard (Drummer & BJ fan from Warwickshire, England)

  51. Colin says at July 15th, 2006 at 3:50 pm :

    My wife and I cant wait till Wednesday when we go to Manchester to see Billy.reading your reviews make it even better waiting for the day.

    York, England

  52. Brian says at July 15th, 2006 at 6:29 pm :
    Enjoy the show, folks! Glad the review was helpful. Definitely stop by & let us know what you thought of it after you see it

  53. Anonymous says at August 17th, 2006 at 9:50 pm :
    Really enjoyed reading the review and all of these comments.

    I`m a professional musician, currently onboard a Carnival cruiseliner (for my sins) and I perform several Billy tunes on a regular basis. I recently attended the Birmingham, UK gig and was so blown away that I also went to the Manchester one a couple of weeks later.

    I honestly think he is on a personal high. I saw him in `89 and `94 but this tour he seems to be enjoying himself so much more, it`s really as is he discovered his love of performing again.

    The best thing for me has been that it has inspired me musically. I`ve been reminded that I`m lucky to get to do this for a living, and I`m putting more into my performances every night. Much like the Great Man, although clearly I can`t compete with him…….:)

  54. Brian says at August 17th, 2006 at 11:09 pm :

    You are indeed lucky to be doing what you’re doing (and don’t kid yourself – a cruiseliner isn’t the worst place in the world to be stuck working…)

    I’m an adamant ameteur musician because a) I never wanted to work hard enough at music to make it my profession, and b) I don’t have enough talent to really make it pay off.

    Most of my (non-musician) friends don’t notice at parties, though, so don’t tell anyone, OK? ;-)

  55. Anonymous says at February 6th, 2007 at 10:18 am :
    February and this post is kicking butt on Google under “Bill Joel Concert Reviews”.

    My wife got me tix for Christmas to see him next Monday in Miami. I can’t wait. 3rd row on the floor we’ll be staring up to see the stage.

    Thanks for the review. I hope he’s not too worn out from being on the road so long. At his age it must be so much harder than it used to be. But it sounds like he gave you guys a really great show and I’m very excited to see it.

    And I thought his rendition of the national anthem at the Super Bowl was heartfelt and soulful but he couldn’t possibly have been very comfortable out there in the rain.

  56. Brian says at February 6th, 2007 at 9:41 pm :
    Yeah, what can I say…God Bless Google!

    I’m sure the Miami show will be great. He’s older, but he knows how to take care of himself at this point. Anyone can have a bad night, but now that he’s sober, I can’t imagine any one show being that much worse than any of the others…

    As for the national anthem, I have a recording of him singing it at Yankee Stadium before a World Series game. He did that one a capella, and it was way out of tune in places.

    He’s clearly more comfortable in front of a piano, but singing in the rain with a stadium sound system blasting back at you is really, really hard to do. I’ve only got an average musical ear, but as Randy Jackson likes to say, the superbowl performance was still “pitchy.”

    Personally, I think he should stick to Rock & Roll…

  57. Dari says at February 7th, 2007 at 12:40 pm :
    Dear Brian & All:

    THANKS so much for creating this thread about Billy Joel. We are staying in Jacksonville on business and reading everyone’s contributions clinched our decision to buy tickets for his show here tonight.

    I saw him in concert in Toronto, Canada while he was still married to Christie and she danced throughout the show on stage which was special to see.

    We’re REALLY looking forward to seeing him tonight in concert!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Won’t have computer service until the weekend – will post again after that.


  58. Brian says at February 7th, 2007 at 11:18 pm :

    Glad to have helped. It’s a pretty good bet that Christie won’t be dancing around the stage tonight, but now that you mention it…

    There IS a pretty good chance (better than even, I’d say) that you’ll see his current wife, Katie Lee, and that you may even be the first live audience to hear “All My Life” live. That’s the new pop song he just released as a gift for his wife (like so many songs before it were gifts to Christie, and “Just the Way You Are” was a gift for his first wife).

    Please report back about whether or not that happens – I’m very curious to hear it from someone who was there.

    Enjoy the show!

  59. Anonymous says at February 12th, 2007 at 6:52 pm :
    Just for your information….Rich Cannata is the original sax player, but Tommy Byrnes is NOT the original guitar player from the 52ndStreet & Glass Houses days….That would be David Brown….Tommy Byrnes didn’t come on board until the early 90s.

  60. Anonymous says at February 21st, 2007 at 3:43 pm :
    Does anyone know where I can find Billy Joel’s setlists from this tour? We are seeing him tonight in Nashville and are curious what he has been playing on this tour.


  61. Brian says at February 23rd, 2007 at 12:42 am :
    Tommy Byrnes is NOT the original guitar player from the 52ndStreet & Glass Houses days….That would be David Brown….Tommy Byrnes didn’t come on board until the early 90s.

    Noted. Thanks for correcting the record…

  62. Len, Toronto says at April 18th, 2007 at 2:04 pm :
    My wife recently told me she has never been to a concert. I did some searching and low and behold Billy Joel is coming to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. I hopped on to ticketmaster.ca and gobbled up a a couple of tickets.

    This Friday, April 20th will be my wife’s first concert..and the first time I’ve seen Billy Joel live…we’re really looking forward to it! :)

    I’ll try to post after the show and let you know how it went.

  63. Anonymous says at April 23rd, 2007 at 12:30 am :
    we’re going tomorrow night!… your comments make me all the more excited…
    we’re taking our 2 piano-playing sons to their first concert ~ what better could we do for them!?!…
    thanks for sharing your experience…

  64. Innocent Bystander says at July 1st, 2008 at 1:07 am :
    Re: Billy Joel, I have seen him in concert several times. You mentioned how he plass a classical piece, then goes right in to Angry Young Man. . . Do you have any idea on the title of the classical piece he commonly plays is? Its been on the tip of my tongue for 2 years since I saw him last at MSG


  65. Brian says at July 1st, 2008 at 9:15 pm :
    innocent bystander,

    It’s usually Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, although it’s recorded music (not live), so he can change it whenever he likes. I believe during the Storm Front tour, for instance, it was something water/sea related…

  66. FamilyGreenberg.Com - ISBS Review: Billy Joel at Shea Stadium - The “Last Play at Shea” says at July 17th, 2008 at 12:47 pm :
    [...] my January, 2006 review of his Madison Square Garden Concert, I said, “There were far fewer piano riffs/solos than there had been in years past, but what [...]


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