Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Billy Joel Celebrates 100th Madison Square Garden Concert with Sting, Jerry Seinfeld, Taped for Historic TV Special

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Billy Joel, almost 75, rocked Madison Square Garden tonight to a sold out crowd for his 100th show in his ten year residency. The concert — fun, emotional, nostalgic — was taped for an April 14th showing on CBS.

Billy’s guests were Jerry Seinfeld — who gave a rousing and touching tribute to Billy as the savior of Long Island. Jerry also brought down a banner marking the 100th show in this series. (When Billy finishes in July he’ll have had 150 shows in his hometown arena.)

There was a musical surprise, too, in the person of Sting, who sang Billy’s “Big Man on Mulberry Street” with depth and bravado evoking a swinging film noir. (Sting loves a cup of tea with honey, it’s said. The result is that his voice is now honeyed and sandpapered at the same time.) Then the pair rocked Sting’s hit “Everything Little Thing You Do Is Magic,” which sent the massive crowd into cheers.

The audience included MSG chairman James Dolan, Senator Bill Bradley, director Ron Howard, actor Paul Rudd, filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, and great jazz pianist Eric Lewis aka ELEW.

But the evening was about Billy, whose song repertoire has held up alongside the great Tin Pan Alley songwriters that have inspired him. Like Bruce, Elton, the two Pauls (Simon and McCartney), and Sting, Billy Joel has crafted a catalog of songs that stand the test of time and just keep getting better.

I actually get a little teary eyed now, 50 years later, when 20,000 people sing the words to “Piano Man.” (It’s funny how the boisterous audience suddenly gets very quiet as Billy straps on his harmonica. They want to hear each other sing the stories of the characters at Billy’s bar like it’s a holy communion.) All the hits are in this show, including pop standards like “Uptown Girl” and anthems like “Allentown.” Billy even includes his new song, that he “partially wrote,” “Turn the Lights Back On.”

Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen are the two performers who forever will represent the New York area, although the latter is from New Jersey. When I was younger, people would always say, are you a Billy fan or a Bruce fan? It’s interesting that they’re really so similar, grounded in doo wop and R&B, with songs that feature brassy horns. They’re pretty much the same age, too — twins from different mothers.

Billy, though, with his proficient piano skills, cuts a different path, more toward Elton John. Watching him on the keyboards, it’s a master class. You can hear all that jazz, the Spanish rhythms of people like Dion and Lieber and Stoller, a sprinkling of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. And his voice, though he doth protest too much, is still there. He jokingly warned the audience that maybe he’d lost some top notes, but they came with ease.

What a great show this will make for CBS. I hope they keep in everything. It was historic.

Here’s a taste of Sting. Tony Bennett would approve!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
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