Billy Joel at the Garden

Samantha O'Donnell, Staff Writer

Since signing his first solo recording contract in 1972, Billy Joel has sold more than 150 million records and has become one of the most popular and respected recording artists in the world. Over 40 years later, Billy Joel is still playing to sold out crowds and his songs continue to move and inspire newer generations. I was lucky enough to attend his November 21st concert at Madison Square Garden, and it was nothing short of spectacular.

The Garden was packed, and the crowd chanted his name before the concert began.There was no opening act or warning about when the concert would begin, but suddenly all the lights turned off, and a single spotlight was shining down on his piano centerstage. He opened the concert with “Prelude/Angry Young Man,” which consisted of an incredible piano solo and energetic screams from the audience. With every song he performed, his talent shone through. He played with the crowd, asking them what songs they wanted to hear him play. Billy Joelrelies on old-fashioned crowd participation, with ‘fielder’s choice’ moments, where the audience choose which of two songs they would like to hear,” says Betty Clarke, a writer for the online news source The Guardian. What really stood out to me was how he could think of a song on the spot, and his talented band members would join in effortlessly, showcasing their musical abilities.

The best part of the concert was his false ending. The audience was quiet, anticipating the song they know and love, the song that made Billy Joel a star: “Piano Man.” A single spotlight shone down onto his piano, and for a while it was just him and the keys, playing away as he sang the well-known lyrics into the microphone. I couldn’t help but sing along. “Piano Man” was first heard in November 1973, Billy Joel’s first single ever released. Forty-three years later, a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden knows every word and gave the performance a standing ovation and an applause that lasted almost ten minutes long. The woman behind me cried as the song ended, remembering how this song affected her at a young age and how she grew up listening to Billy Joel’s music. After the song, Billy and his band took a bow and left the stage, but no one was fooled. The crowd chanted his name, and soon he reappeared on stage and played not one encore, not two encores, but five encore songs of some of his biggest, most memorable hits. My favorite was “Uptown Girl,” a song that I didn’t know I knew every lyric to, but I was glad I did because I could not stop singing along.

Joel and his band get together at least once a month to play to sold-out crowds at the Garden, and people never get tired of hearing his music. “Getting together for at least one show a month, even when not touring, seems to be having a good effect on Joel’s band. Their playing was consistently assured, but never had the “automatic” feel you can get from a group that’s been on the road too much,” says Jay Lustig, a writer for the North Jersey branch of the USA Today Network. Joel and his band are so enthusiastic when they perform, and they feed off of the audience’s energy as well. They are veterans of the music industry, but they somehow always manage to make every concert new and exciting.

Even though Billy Joel has not released an album since 2001, his music still stays fresh to the millions of adoring fans who attend his monthly concerts. Nearing fifty years after his first hit single, Billy Joel still inspires his loyal fans and has a talent that is timeless. As a seventeen-year-old girl who prefers pop music to “oldies,” I have a newfound love and admiration for his music, and so do many of my friends. Billy Joel is truly an icon, or some might even say, a legend.


* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license