Sunday, June 19, 2016

Billy Joel at the's time to see what's the fuss about this Joel kid

It’s a rare event when my wife and I are out on a date.   I think the last time we were out was the night we went to see Ed Harris in Buried Child a couple of months back.  Getting to a concert is scarce since we generally have very different tastes in music.  We have one band in common, REM.  For Christmas I bought us Billy Joel tickets.  He has played at Madison Square Garden almost monthly for over a year.  He said our performance was the 30th show in the run.  I have not been to one of his shows for a couple of reasons.  He plays at large venues and I’d prefer a small theater or a more intimate event.  I doubt that will happen with Billy Joel, he’s a stadium performer.  But more importantly I don’t go out of my way to listen to Billy Joel.  I respect him and like many I can sing his hits, but he’s not edgy enough for me.  I like his song, You May Be Right and a few others, but most are middle of the road.  I have a clear memory of listening to The Stranger when it was newly released.  My mother brought us kids out to California to visit my relatives and we stayed at our Aunt Betty and Uncle Gene’s house.  I played the record over and over as I tried to fall asleep on their sofa.  I have followed his career from the periphery.   Keeping with the large venues, in a few weeks Billy will play up at Fenway.  Amanda is hoping to get there and will listen to the show and may get a chance to see him.  If you’re around my age and have lived most of your life on Long Island you may have a Billy Joel story. I knew someone who knew someone whose sister was the inspiration for Virginia in his song, Only the Good Die Young.  I have never met him, but I have a couple of second hand stories.  While on a high school field trip, my sister and her friends were in Central Park and saw Billy playing with his daughter, Alexa Ray on the swings.  Gives you an idea how long ago it was.  As the kids from the high school spotted Billy and were making their way towards them, he headed in their direction and politely asked if they would respect his privacy with his daughter.  Sure thing.  The kids moved and the dad went back to playing with his daughter.  Years later a friend of mine had a restaurant in Sag Harbor and Billy was a frequent guest.  Imagine if they had a piano and the man decided to strike up a few tunes.  Anyway, this past Friday Ali and I drove into the city and we sung to a Billy Joel greatest hits CD.  I parked the mini-van on the street and we walked a few blocks to the garden.  We paid a lot of money for food and beer (for me) and we found our seats in the garden.  The show was supposed to start at 8:00, but twenty minutes later the man and his band took the stage and played in front of another sell out.  His banter with the crowd was a relaxed as if we were watching our uncle, Billy play in front of us.  His voice was strong and I can rattle off the songs he played like Only The Good, Piano Man, New York State of Mind, Moving Out, Uptown Girl. He dedicated, “You’re only human,” the victims in Orlando and said it was the first time they played the song in twenty five years and he hoped they wouldn’t fuck it up.  He played roughly two hours.  Added material from The Beach Boys and Led Zeppelin.  We sat behind the stage and still paid a good amount.  I looked out at the audience who were generally older and very white.  Some had their hokey dances.  I will say everyone had a great time since the entertainer was in the house and in our neighborhood.  As we were walking out of there we both said we’d like to come back.  Why not?

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