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Ryan Star on Billy Joel's 'epic moment' at MSG

Billy Joel performs on stage at Madison Square

Billy Joel performs on stage at Madison Square Garden, NYC, Mar. 21, 2014. Credit: Bruce Gilbert

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. This month, it’s singer-songwriter Ryan Star, the Dix Hills native whose album “Angels + Animals” hit stores in January. Check back every month in 2014 to see how Joel's concert series is evolving.

“I see my dad,” Billy Joel says as he stares up at Madison Square Garden’s massive video screen. “I didn't want to look like my dad, but I do.”

Some things you just can't avoid in life. Some things are just in our DNA. Growing up on Long Island we all have Billy Joel in our makeup. Like a kid growing up in Compton listening to N.W.A., there is a relationship we have with his words and melodies that others just can’t know.

My personal story goes even deeper into my DNA. My father rocked the keys in a band called The Half A Dozen. In the summer of ’66, they opened for Joel’s The Hassles at The Eye in the Hampton Bays.

I grew up hearing legendary stories about this incredible music scene on Long Island. My favorite was knowing my dad borrowed the Hassles' keyboard one night and accidentally broke one of its keys as he jumped over it mid-performance.

He recalls a young Billy obviously not being too thrilled with it. Shortly after that, my father turned to the family business at Mayfair Jewelers and passed down the music to me. 

My first concert was seeing Billy Joel at the Ranch in Montauk when I was a kid. The power I felt in “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’,” when he belted out, “We took diesel back in Montauk yesterday” for a hometown crowd blew my mind. I saw the pride in the fans listening and knew music could touch and inspire us more than anything. I wanted to feel that passion, so it was then that I began my own journey as a musician.

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I have since built my own music career trying my best to follow these legendary footsteps in the modern day. I have toured arenas with Bon Jovi, shared the stage with my friend Stevie Van Zandt and have even had the opportunity to meet Billy at my own show in Huntington at The Paramount.  It was a dream come true to hear him say such kind things about my set.

Sometimes when I am not rockin’ on tour or playing bigger shows here in New York, I like to just show up where it all started for me. I call up Rockwood Music Hall (the best intimate Lower East Side club for music) and say, “I wanna play a residency while I am in town.” No problem.

When you are Billy Joel you do the same thing, I guess, except it is MADISON SQUARE [EXPLETIVE] GARDEN that is on the speed dial. 

His third show at the Garden in his sold-out monthly residency was once again life-changing. With notes spread out on top of his piano, his killer band we have all loved since the beginning and the laid-back swagger only a veteran like himself can have, he treated us all to what felt like a private concert. 

His conversation between songs was probably no different than when he was the humble piano man starting out. Running through countless hits of his 50 years of playing music, the set was spectacular and electric.

Elton John was there in spirit as Joel sang a piece of “Your Song” literally and comically calling [expletive] on his old friend when he got to the line “don’t have much money.” Another legend was physically in the house when Billy called up AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. We were all transported to the world’s greatest rock show as they electrified the room with “You Shook Me All Night Long.” TRULY EPIC!

As big as that moment got, Billy had a way in “Where's the Orchestra” to shrink The Garden into a bedroom and a lullaby I didn’t want to end. From there he brought us again to our feet with the working man's sing-along, “Allentown.” 

“Piano Man” was a reminder of the journey we take to achieve our dreams as we all sang along like a modern version of “Kumbaya” at the campfire.

Unbearable decibels call him out for the encore where he blasted through more hits like “Uptown Girl,” “Only the Good Die Young” and “It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me," where he was getting dirty and throwing the mic stand around like it was CBGB in the ‘70s.

You want to see this residency! Billy Joel is, in my strong opinion, the greatest songwriter of all time. This is one of those events that will come and inevitably go, but will live on as an epic moment in his career. It’s a thank you to New Yorkers like us, a victory lap for guys like me to see and to strive towards and it sets the standard for what a legend should be. As a Long Islander, this show will remind you where you come from and who you are. It is our DNA.

(I have to add a personal note to our friend. Billy – I’m bypassing the agents here and just asking for the honor and dream to share the stage with you during this incredible residency. All the best, ryan star)

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