Billy Joel plans to play monthly shows at Madison Square Garden for as long as the public is interested. Follow his first year of this groundbreaking music-industry experiment by looking at his shows through a variety of viewpoints -- from critics, musicians, celebrities and fans. Here, Glen Cove's Harlan Friedman, former WLIR DJ and current owner of Oyster Bay-based The Harlan Group, weighs in on Joel's July 2 show.
Randy Newman's central theme to "The Natural" kicks in and the faithful Madison Square Garden audience at Wednesday's concert knows it's show time. The buzz kicks in.
Projections of what Billy Joel will open with start filling the arena like political analyses on election night. "2017!" one fan shouts, as another calmly states that he did "Matter of Trust" last show, so it will be "Pressure" tonight.
Several strokes of the keyboard in, the popular vote wins and a powerful version of "Miami 2017" wins. As Billy guides us through a tapestry of hits ranging from "Everybody Loves You Now" from his debut album, "Cold Spring Harbor," to the title cut off his final studio album, 1993's "River of Dreams," he does it with the same excitement and pride that have sustained him through his career of almost 50 years.
Billy's interaction with the audience is frank and genuine, asking for forgiveness before belting out a perfect rendition of "An Innocent Man," hitting all those so-hard-to-reach high notes. After "The Entertainer," he looked at the audience and reflected on the lyrics, "You've heard my latest record, it's been on the radio."
He smirked and remarked, "Last time I did that, it was 21 years ago. Thanks for still coming to see me!"
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Joel was pulling classics out of the archives, including "A Room of Our Own" and "Big Man on Mulberry Street," leading New York City's largest two-hour sing-along.
I do believe there is a little extra magic at each Billy Joel show. If the Seattle Seahawks won this year's Super Bowl partly due to the "12th Man," I would say that some of the magic at a Billy show comes from, let's call it the "10th Band Member."
Billy's fans take a true ownership in each show, singing along with every word, cheering for each song louder than the last and pushing the man behind the piano and his band to elevate their game to higher and higher levels every show.
Early on, Joel introduced himself and his bandmates with, "We're the house band, and we might be here for the rest of my natural born life."
Let's hope so, Billy. We can only imagine the heights you will reach.