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Billy Joel at MSG: 50th residency show finds rock icon in fine voice

Billy Joel and Mark Messier celebrate the 50th

Billy Joel and Mark Messier celebrate the 50th show of Joel's residency at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Credit: Myrna Suarez

Billy Joel celebrated the 50th concert in his record-setting run at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night with an energetic, grateful show.

“I don’t believe this,” Joel said, after a banner commemorating the event was raised to the rafters by Rangers legend Mark Messier. “This is nuts.”

His two-hour show was peppered with numerous “fielder’s choices,” where the audience picks the next song he plays, and stories about some of his classics. After the tender ballad “She’s Got a Way,” he added, “Then we got divorced. I learned to live without her.”

There were timely surprises from Joel, who was in such fine voice that he was hitting higher notes than in some of the originals, like an instrumental version of “Easter Parade,” and comedian Jim Breuer taking the lead in a version of “You Shook Me All Night Long.” There was also a bit of “Tears on My Pillow” to introduce “For the Longest Time,” which also ended with the joke “Then we got divorced. . . . It just seemed like the longest time.”

Joel, 68, became Madison Square Garden’s first entertainment franchise in 2014, starting a monthly residency that the Hicksville native said would continue as long as demand did. Well, in recent months, the scramble for Joel tickets has been more intense four years in than when he started. Shows are now scheduled through October, with Joel marking even more milestones along the way, including the 100th Garden performance of his career in July and the millionth ticket sold in the residency.

“It’s not like I’m the most glamorous rock star,” Joel said. “But you guys keep buying the tickets.”

Each month, Joel’s records grow further and further out of the reach of other artists. In addition to having the longest run of concerts in the arena’s history, Joel has performed at The Garden more than any other artist in history. Both feats are commemorated each month with new banners raised to the rafters.

Elton John previously held the record for most concerts at The Garden with 64. With Wednesday night’s concert, Joel has played there 96 times. His banners now hang next to one for Phish, whose 13 concerts on consecutive nights last year broke Joel’s previous record of 12 concerts in 2006. “It’s an honor to be sharing the rafters with you for the rest of our lives,” Messier told Joel. “Thank you for your passion.”

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