'Last Play at Shea' documentary tells stadium's story

Billy Joel on stage at Shea Stadium on Billy Joel on stage at Shea Stadium on July 16, 2008. Photo Credit: Maritime Motion Pictures

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The decision for Paul McCartney to play "Let It Be" as the final song at Shea Stadium came from a last-minute conversation backstage with Billy Joel while fans were still screaming after Joel delivered "Piano Man."

That's just one of the many behind-the-scenes revelations from "Last Play at Shea," the documentary chronicling the life of Shea Stadium and Billy Joel's final concerts there in 2008. The film is set to make its world premiere Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival.

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"It was poetic," Joel said of the decision, adding that having McCartney bookend the musical history of the stadium was "the perfect ending" for Shea.

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"It was really this thing coming full circle," McCartney added.

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Though the 90-minute film, directed by Paul Crowder for Maritime Films, focuses on Joel's historic concerts at Shea and uses his music to tell the stories of the stadium, "Last Play at Shea" is more about the history of the place and its impact on the area and those who called it home. "It's a dump," said Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry, "but it's our dump."

Using historical footage and animation, the documentary puts Shea into the broader context of the rise of the suburbs and how Long Island, in general, and Joel, specifically, reflected that shift in American life. That backdrop is designed to give lifelong fans of the Mets and Joel a new way of looking at the events that have already been woven into the fabric of their lives.

Of course, what lifelong fan of the Mets wouldn't want to relive the triumphant '69 World Series and the miraculous Game Six of the '86 Series on the big screen?

Joel tries to put his own miraculous climb from The Hassles to playing Shea with his idol McCartney into context, as well. "I'm a kid from Levittown," Joel said. "I don't even look like a rock star . . . I don't believe this is going on."

Other revelations:

Sting decided to go solo from The Police while they performed at Shea in '83 because playing there was "Everest."

Alexa Ray Joel talks about dealing with the divorce of her parents, Joel and Christie Brinkley. "I was heartbroken as any child is," she said. "But I wasn't surprised."

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