billy joel

Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden

Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden

To preview Billy Joel’s huge headlining show at British Summer Time at Hyde Park, Adam Davidson attended his show at Madison Square Gardens in New York to see what fans can expect next year.

Billy Joel, a chart-topping and Grammy award-winning musician and one of the highest-selling solo artists of all time, hasn’t released a rock album since 1993.

Surely he must have lost some of his popularity and faded in obscurity?

Quite the opposite. Joel is still selling out the biggest stadiums in the World, headlining festivals and even performs a monthly residency at Madison Square Garden that consistently sells out – this show was his 82nd consecutive monthly show at the iconic venue.

After coming onto the stage to perform ‘A Matter of Trust’ and ‘Pressure’, Billy Joel greeted the audience by saying ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, we are the house band for the evening.’

Billy Joel is as New York-ish as they come with a cheeky and charming sense of humour that gives the impression that he is the calmest in the room, despite performing in front of 20,000 people.

Sitting at his piano, Joel tells jokes and anecdotes in between songs in a crooner-esque style that you’d think is a performance style more suited to an intimate venue or concert hall. It works perfectly, though, as there is something for everyone in the crowd, young or old.

Billy got up from his piano and moved to the mic-stand before warning the audience ‘I ain’t no Mick Jagger’ and proceeded to do his best impression of The Rolling Stones frontman leading the ‘Miss You’ chants and a performance of ‘Start Me Up.’

The setlist consisted of songs like ‘My Life’, ‘Innocent Man’, ‘Vienna’ and ‘Just the Way You Are’ which highlighted the enduring legacy as they are all timeless hits that kept the audience entertained for a two-and-a-half hour jam-packed show.

The performance was enhanced with incredible lights and special effects which added a new dimension to the performance and gave it that big arena feel that it deserved but the main focus was primarily on the music that highlighted the talent and showmanship of the New Yorker.

The main section of the show ended in spectacular fashion with ‘Scenes From An Italian Restaurant’ and one of his trademark hits ‘Piano Man.’

The performance of the 1973 classic can only be described as magical as it really needs to be experienced to be believed. The audience roared when Joel put the harmonica to his lips as they knew exactly what song was coming up next.

Usually, it is exaggerated when people say ‘the audience sang along to every word’ but not here- the synchronicity between the sold-out MSG and the band was incredibly electric and encapsulated the power of live music as people ‘forget about life for a while.’

The variety in Billy Joel’s setlist is interesting to see from the slow ballads like ‘Piano Man’ and ‘Vienna’ which had the audience swaying from side to side to the pop hits during the encore like ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ and ‘Uptown Girl’ which are songs guaranteed to have people up on their feet and dancing along.

Billy Joel and his band got a huge standing ovation after the final song ‘You May Be Right’ as the audience had been part of something special and this will be the case when the New York icon performs his only European show of 2023 at BST Hyde Park on Friday 7 July, with support acts yet to be announced.

Also performing at next year’s festival will be Bruce Springsteen, Take That, Pink and Blackpink with more acts announced shortly.

Image credit: Myrna Suarez