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Billy Joel basks in hometown glow at Huntington's Paramount

Joel at the Paramount.

In October, Billy Joel performed at the Paramount Theater in Huntington, to the delight of his legions of Long Island fans. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (Oct. 16, 2013)

Billy Joel celebrated being a hometown boy at his first Long Island concert in 11 years Wednesday night at The Paramount.

"Long Island, long time no see," he said before announcing his plans to play more than just hits. "It's great to be in Huntington -- easy commute to work."

Joel dedicated his hopeful anthem "Miami 2017" to "everybody who's been through Sandy." He offered up "The Downeaster Alexa" to the South Shore. And he changed the words to "Piano Man" to "It's a pretty good crowd here in Huntington."

He also paid tribute to Long Island Cares, the Hauppauge-based charity founded by Harry Chapin that Joel chose to receive proceeds from the sold-out show.

Joel, 64, has been considering retirement from touring, but recently he has enjoyed performing at festivals in New Orleans and Australia, and has a short European tour set for later this month -- the reason he and his band started rehearsing at The Paramount in the first place.

"This is harder than it used to be," Joel said. However, he was clearly in good spirits, breaking out in a wide grin at the ovation he got for "River of Dreams," as well as being in fine voice. His recent hip surgeries seem to have done the trick as he swiveled his hips during the encore "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me."

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Joel's concert brought out VIPs of all sorts -- from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who recently rode with Joel in a motorcycle memorial to honor 9/11 victims, to actor Paul Rudd, from numerous Judd Apatow movies.

It also brought the shops and restaurants of downtown Huntington to life, with many blasting Joel's music out their front doors.

Tickets for the show sold out within 15 minutes Tuesday, even with a two-ticket limit per person and only two hours' notice.

Considering how Joel holds the record for the most sellouts at Madison Square Garden and sold out two nights at Shea Stadium, competition for tickets at the 1,555-capacity Paramount was predictably fierce. Scalpers were charging more than $800 on StubHub and Craigslist for tickets, which originally ranged in price from $79.50 to $150.

Joel addressed the wild markups, saying, "We're not worth that much -- maybe if [Jimi] Hendrix came back."

Of course, many fans were thrilled to see Joel in such an intimate setting no matter what the cost. After all, Joel is set to be honored by the Kennedy Center in December, when he will receive the nation's highest award given to performers for their contribution to popular culture.

He showed off how diverse that influence has been, adding a Latin influence to "Don't Ask Me Why" and some ragtime to the extended opening of "New York State of Mind," which became a poignant sing-along.

Joel also made a point of explaining how rare some of the night's performances were.

"I don't think we've ever played this one before," he said, introducing "Blonde Over Blue" from the "River of Dreams" album.

"It could be a car wreck." After the song got a huge ovation, he said, "I like that one. We're going to keep it."

He closed the two-hour show with thank yous for Long Island and The Paramount, as well as a potential promise. "Maybe we'll see you soon again," he said as he left the stage.

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