Billy Joel Delivered Classic Hits and a Surprise Reunion at Madison Square Garden Residency Concert
In an unprecedented run, iconic singer-songwriter Billy Joel performed his 48th consecutive monthly show at Madison Square Garden in New York on Jan. 11. This marked Joel’s 94th overall performance at The World’s Most Famous Arena. Last night’s show at MSG was a continuation of his multi-year franchise run which started all the way back in 2014.
Numbers and accolades aside, Joel still maintains the same performance vigor and inclusivity as he has throughout his career. While most of the night he sat behind his black piano in a black suit serenading the packed MSG audience, the inarguable highlight came halfway through the evening when Joel brought on-stage Foreigner’s Lou Gramm and Mick Jones. Though this wasn’t the first time the classic rock purveyors have come together – their first official reunion came in the summer of 2017 at a concert in Jones Beach – the duo still represented Foreigner with aplomb. Joel and Gramm’s relationship go all the way back to 1989 when Gramm produced Joel’s “Storm Front” album. Even more so, Joel backed both Gramm and Jones when they were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame back in 2013. The chemistry between the three men was apparent as Joel played piano during a sharp rendition of “Urgent.” This, before he left the stage giving full audience attention to another Foreigner hit in “Cold as Ice.”
While Foreigner stole the headlines, Joel stole the audience’s hearts by opening the night with 1976’s “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).” This song has a certain significance with Joel and New York as the lyrics discuss the fall of “the mighty skyline” of the city. After 9/11, he performed a benefit concert for the city and sang this very song commenting how eerie it was that it came true. Though things started off sentimental, Joel quickly brought things up with a lively rendition of “Pressure.”
Throughout much of the night, like any good entertainer, Joel looked to the audience for setlist recommendations. He’d present the crowd with two songs and choose one based on audience applause. When claps for “A Matter of Trust” overshadowed “This is the Time,” he stepped away from his piano and grabbed his guitar, when “Don’t Ask Me Why” received more eagerness than “Sleeping with the Television On” Joel took to the band for the “Glass House” favorite.
As always, Joel was personable and intimate, even in an arena that holds over 20,000 people. He congratulated his daughter Alexa on her recent engagement and spoke candidly about the pressure he received from record companies in the early days of his career to pump out album after album. He even confessed how he thought his hit “The Entertainer” – which received an enormous applause – was initially “a dud.” And like the true entertainer he is, he closed the evening with exactly what the crowd craved: “We Didn’t Start the Fire” into “Uptown Girl” into “It’s Still Rock n’ Roll.” And what Billy Joel concert would be complete without “Only the Good Die Young?”