Meet Madison Square Garden's newest franchise: Billy Joel.
The Piano Man will be the first-ever artist-in-residence at a major arena, after a historic agreement announced Tuesday that will have Joel playing the Garden monthly for as long as fans want him.
The first of the new concerts in his residency will be May 9 -- his 65th birthday. Pre-sale tickets will be available to Citi Private Pass program cardholders starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Tickets go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday through Ticketmaster.
"There's no better venue in the world," Joel said. "I'm honored to be part of the Madison Square Garden family."Joel said he was honored that the Garden approached him with the idea, especially as a Hicksville native.
"This was the mecca," Joel said after the announcement. "When I was coming up on Long Island, New York was where you wanted to get to -- that's where things happened. To do this is crazy. I'm still trying to digest it."
Joel was welcomed to the venue by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Madison Square Garden Co. executive chairman James Dolan and members of the other Garden franchises -- the Knicks, Rangers and Liberty.
"How fitting it is that a New York icon joins another New York icon," Cuomo said. "Billy tells the New York story because Billy is the New York story. . . . Faced with hardship and challenge, his determination, hard work and talent overcame, time and time again."
Dolan said he expected the partnership to yield "many unforgettable nights of music," before adding, "Billy, having you as our music franchise feels a little bit like having the pope as your parish priest."Though artist residencies have become increasingly common in Las Vegas, where Garth Brooks and soon Britney Spears will have regular shows, they have yet to be tried at major arenas, especially ones with schedules as packed as the Garden's sports-and-concert-filled slate.
However, the arrangement worked well for both the venue and Joel.
Melissa Ormond, president of Madison Square Garden Entertainment, said, "Billy will be a major part of our future and will serve as a powerful anchor for the Garden's concert schedule."
Gary Bongiovanni, president and editor-in-chief of Pollstar, which covers the concert industry, said the partnership seems like "a natural marriage" and could run for the foreseeable future. "If it does well, it could almost be an alternative to Broadway as a draw to New York," he said, adding that it's a great move for the Garden. "Who wouldn't want a guaranteed sell-out every month?"The Joel connection sets the Garden, which recently completed a $1 billion renovation, apart in an increasingly crowded arena landscape in the area, which now includes Brooklyn's Barclays Center and Newark's Prudential Center, as well as the soon-to-be-renovated Nassau Coliseum.
Cuomo said he expected the residency to draw Joel's fans from around the world to New York to see him. Joel wasn't looking for a strenuous schedule because his voice now needs more time to recover between shows. However, his recent tour of England and Ireland, and a warm-up gig at Huntington's Paramount theater reinforced how much he still enjoys performing -- though it may have also convinced him how much he likes to be at home in Oyster Bay.
"I've been schlepping for almost 50 years now and I'm tired of the schlep," he said, though he will continue to play sporadic dates around the country. "This way, I can commute to work. It just all works."
Joel said before agreeing to the arrangement he consulted with various friends, including Bruce Springsteen, who said, " 'That's not a bad idea. You don't have to schlep all over the world,' " according to Joel.Joel will receive the Kennedy Center Honor, the nation's highest award for performers, on Sunday, following a White House reception and State Department dinner. He then returns home to prepare for his New Year's Eve concert at Barclays Center, several Florida shows and his previously scheduled Garden gigs, which start Jan. 27.
He said it was his idea to celebrate his 65th birthday on stage. "What am I gonna do? Wear a silly hat?" he said, laughing. "I'd rather be working."
The Dolan family
owns controlling interests in Madison Square Garden
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