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Jubilant Billy Joel fans pack Nassau Coliseum for arena's final show

Deb Novick before seeing Billy Joel at the

Deb Novick before seeing Billy Joel at the Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 in Uniondale. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A funny thing happened to Antoinette Morea and Mary Connolly on the way to their seats -- in the last row of the top deck -- at Billy Joel's Nassau Coliseum-closing concert Tuesday night.

For reasons the 20-year-old fans never found out, an usher stopped them and asked where they were sitting.

"Not anymore, you're not," he told them.

Morea, of Farmingdale, and Connolly, of the Bronx, were then escorted to the front row.

"If you live in New York, you have to go to a Billy Joel show," Connolly said. "Now I'm sitting 15 feet away. This is the last thing I thought of when I woke up this morning."

They were among the thousands of fans ecstatic to see the Hicksville-bred rocker perform at a venue in which many of them practically grew up and where they will never see another show again.

The Billy Joel faithful began arriving for the 8 p.m. concert at lunchtime. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's greatest hits played over speakers in the parking lot, which soon took on the atmosphere of a party.

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Some concertgoers grilled food, played street hockey or sang. Others brought memorabilia with them, displaying their treasures outside their cars.

One woman showed off her denim jacket with the cover of Joel's "Greatest Hits" album hand-painted on the back -- and an autograph he gave her during a chance encounter.

More than three hours after the concert began, Joel concluded his final number, thanking Nassau and the Coliseum for the privilege.

Then the lights went up. As fans left the building for the last time and crews began their cleanup of the final event, some became nostalgic about the Piano Man and the venue.

"It was a great show," said superfan Michelle Agassi, of East Meadow, who was there with husband Uri. They'd hoped for a lineup of stars like Joel had at his closing performances at Shea Stadium. They were pleased with surprise guest Paul Simon Tuesday night but had hoped for more.

They also worried about what would happen to the Coliseum's workers and nearby businesses during its renovation. "This area is really going to suffer a lot without this for a couple of years," Michelle said.

Lori Robbins, 54, of New Hyde Park, said she spent $300 on souvenirs and $500 on tickets, but still she found herself on the floor of the Coliseum after midnight looking for another memento.

"I love Billy Joel to death," she said. "I never should have gotten married. I was waiting for him."

Spending $290 for a ticket wasn't a concern for Brian Mannix of Island Park.

"I didn't care how much I had to spend -- I wasn't going to miss Billy Joel at the last concert ever at the Coliseum, where I've been coming since age 7," said Mannix, 36, who works in construction. "He's one of my all-time favorite artists at one of my all-time favorite arenas."

Bryan Hardman, 29, of Massapequa, said he came to the Coliseum every chance his father had to see a New York Islanders game.

"I'm grateful to be here now," he said during the show. "I'm speechless."

Alex Klein, 48, of Roslyn, who works in sales, said he's seen Joel in concert at least 30 times. He began tailgating with his wife, Gail, outside the Coliseum at 1 p.m.

As he turned the chicken on the grill beside his white and green bus bearing the names and numbers of New York Jets players, he said: "My heart hurts because I'm a Long Islander. It feels like a piece of Long Island is going away, too. It's a sad day."

"But Billy Joel coming to close the Coliseum is phenomenal," he added.

For Charlie McAnulla, 38, formerly of Oceanside and now living in Brooklyn, it was the first time he had seen Joel perform in 17 years.

"It's a fitting way to say goodbye to the old place," said McAnulla, a New York City worker.

He said that's why he wore sunglasses for the event -- so people couldn't see him cry.


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