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Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden... Finally!

Ellen Levitt

Posted on December 21, 2021 14:47

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My daughters and I saw Billy Joel in concert at "MSG", after a lengthy postponement.

On December 20th my daughters and I (finally) saw Billy Joel in concert. The show had been postponed for over a year, due to the Covid pandemic. this show was also fraught, because the Omicron variant is increasing greatly.

All concertgoers had to show proof of vaccination and ID, and most wore masks going on, leaving, and even during the show. (We three did.) This made me feel more secure but was still worrisome.  

I watched this concert on a few different levels: one, as pure musical entertainment. Two, with an eye toward how a legendary performer serves up a residency show. Three, and related to Two, as a nostalgic show.

As pure musical entertainment, this was a very enjoyable show, for diehard and casual Billy Joel fans. I consider myself the latter; I saw him in concert once, in the late 1990s at MSG. I own a few of his albums, and some of his songs are dear to me. But others irk me (more on that later) and I was never a slavish fan.

My girls and I had "partially obstructed view seats" but they were actually quite good, in Section 220. There were empty seats beside us, and in front and back, which made me feel better about our health. The sound was excellent, the mix fine.

One of the longtime gimmicks Joel has used onstage is that his piano rotates slowly at several points during the show, so concert goers get different views of him playing. He's no kid now, and his voice is not as high and smooth as it once was, but he is still energetic, amiable, and has top-notch musicianship.

He and his able band played big hits from the 1970s and 1980s, as well as "album cuts," as he put it. He also sprinkled in shortened versions of several Christmas songs (during one he ad-libbed about being a Jew on Christmas), as well as a head-scratching three-song ode to Led Zeppelin.

This show, as well as the last several he's played, are residency shows. He had been performing monthly shows (until the height of Covid) and while he has performed certain songs each time, he's rotated in others. With a huge back catalogue, he can do this handily. This is both a come-on for diehard fans who know each show won't be the same, and a nostalgic nod.

Among our favorites at this show were "Vienna," "Don't Ask Me Why," "New York State of Mind," "The River of Dreams," "Allentown," and of course his two most iconic songs "Piano Man" and "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant." I teared up during both of these, and they were done so well.

But a few of his songs have always annoyed me, and he performed two of them: "We Didn't Start the Fire" and "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me." I found them hackneyed; others disagree. 

This show was classic rock, essentially. Standards. But with charm and minor surprises. 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on December 21, 2021 14:47

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Source: WLWT

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Billy Joel is coming to Cincinnati.

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