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"Billy Joel Thrilled To Be Part of Pink's Wedding"
(February 1st, 2006)
Billy Joel has added classic ballad "She's Always A Woman" to his US Tour, after pop star Pink played the tune at her recent wedding.
The "Trouble" singer selected the romantic song as the theme for her nuptials to Carey Hart in Costa Rica last month (January 2006).
She says, "I grew up listening to that song, listening to Billy Joel and Don McLean with my dad, and I always thought Billy Joel wrote that song for me."
And Joel was so thrilled to hear his tune had been chosen he's added the track to his set-list for his upcoming US Tour.
He explains, "We're gonna keep the song in the set. Thanks Pink."
"Sometimes He's Shot"
The 'Piano Man' Has Lots of Bad Songs To Play at The Garden, But Some Are Worse Than Others
By: Mikael Wood
(February 3rd, 2006)
Singling out the absolute worst Billy Joel song of all time is difficult work. For one thing, you have to listen to a whole bunch of Billy Joel songs: Over the past 35 years the Long Island schlockmeister - now in the midst of an 11-show, three-month stand at Madison Square Garden - has sold somewhere in the vicinity of 100 million albums. And though that figure includes roughly 21 million copies of his 1985 greatest hits set, it also comprises sales of lots of other records. So there's quite a bit of competition for the worst-ever distinction, much more than for the best-ever honor. (That's a two-horse race: "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me" versus "Only The Good Die Young.")
Personally, I resent "Pressure" for robbing Andrew Lloyd Webber of an arpeggio whose rightful place is in "The Phantom of The Opera," which premiered a mere four years after Joel's "The Nylon Curtain" was released. And I kind of want to puke when I hear "Piano Man," thanks to my overdeveloped sense of smell; the idea of a microphone perfumed like a beer really grosses me out.
Nonetheless, after a thorough examination of "My Lives," a new four-CD, one-DVD boxed set that stretches from Joel's teenage days fronting The Lost Souls to his recent excursions into treacly faux-classical music, I'm prepared to designate "I Go To Extremes" the number-one worst Billy Joel song ever. "My Lives" offers two opportunities to sample the tune's shittiness, neither of which is the original studio version from "Storm Front." (Too bad: That 1989 album, recorded in the aftermath of Joel's historic tour of the USSR - during which he exercised his cultural ambassadorship by famously shoving a piano offstage - is, in retrospect, a small wonder of fin de siécle white-guy paranoia.) The first, found on Disc 3, is a previously unreleased live cut recorded at the LA Memorial Sports Arena in 1990; it's typical of the era, thick with leftover late-'80s synthesizer cheese. (What's sort of great about the track, I must admit, is the unhinged Howard Dean yowl with which Joel kicks it off.)
It's the second rendition of "I Go To Extremes" - part of the 1993 Frankfurt concert presented on the boxed set's DVD - that perfectly crystallizes my beef with Joel (beyond those fucking TV spots for Broadway's "Movin' Out" that plagued reruns of "Law and Order" all last year). The song is about exactly what the title suggests: Joel can't explain to his lady friend why he's either "out of the darkness" or "into the light," either "wrong" or "perfectly right"; he's always too high or too low - with him "there ain't no in-betweens."
Yet Joel's performance here - onstage before an adoring crowd that includes one guy with a sign reading, "YOU ARE THE BEST" - has to be one of the most dispassionate things I've ever seen: Joel stares into space, as if wondering how to say "cola wars" in German; he moves his water cup to better read his lyric book. The last thing Dude's doing is going to extremes - especially compared to the members of his band, whose batshit enthusiasm emphasizes Joel's Zen-like calm. The only lyric in the song he lives up to: "Sometimes I'm tired, sometimes I'm shot."
Why on earth would anyone feature this clip in a box set intended to demonstrate his artistic zeal? Because that's Joel, the most tone-deaf guy in pop. The "Piano Man" is unsatisfied with his song-and-dance status; in his eyes he's Dylan or Springsteen, so he has to wrest meaning from even the slimmest shard of frivolity. Yet with a few exceptions that's precisely what saps Joel's music of its energy and life (as indeed it's done to some of Dylan's and Springsteen's). Absorbing "My Lives" is like having some beer-buzzed guy in a bar yell in your ear for four hours straight about his family tree. Which is energy in a sense, I suppose - an energy of in-between-ness. Joel's stuck between mattering and Mattering. And he chooses incorrectly nearly every time.
"Billy Joel Shrugs Off Stint In Rehab"
(February 4th, 2006)
"My Life" singer Billy Joel says his stay in rehab was inevitable, because everyone in show business develops addiction problems sooner or later.
The 56 year-old singer, who is currently playing sold-out shows at New York City's famed Madison Square Garden, is enjoying being sober after years fighting alcoholism.
He explains, "How many people in the entertainment have gone into rehab? Just about everybody? Name me the people who haven't.
"It was my time to go. Everybody goes. It's like getting your teeth cleaned. You've got to go eventually. It's like 'mental' floss.'"
"Billy Comes Clean"
(February 3rd, 2006)
Pop superstar Billy Joel is selling out Madison Square Garden with a record 12 sold-out shows in support of his boxed set, "My Lives."
And Access Hollywood's Maria Menounos got the only "Access!"
Billy began the interview on a completely honest note.
"How many people in the entertainment industry have gone into rehab?" Billy Joel said. "Just about everybody. I mean, name the people who haven't. So, it was my time to go, you know. You are going to go some day too!"
"Really?" Maria asked.
"Yeah, trust me," Billy said. "You're all gonna go, everybody goes."
"Everybody in this room, for real?" Maria asked.
"Yeah, yeah, it's, like, you know, getting your teeth cleaned, you got to go eventually," Billy laughed.
"Mom, Dad, I swear, he's wrong, he's wrong," Maria laughed.
"No, it's, like, mental floss, lets put it that way, like that," said Billy, imitating the motion of flossing your brain.
"How are you doing today, are you good?" Maria asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Billy said.
Ten months after his rehab stint, Maria met Billy, his wife of more than a year, Katie Lee and their dogs backstage at the Garden.
"Hi baby," said Maria, petting the two pugs.
"This is Sabrina and Fionoula," Katie Lee told Maria.
"Tanoola?" Maria asked.
"Fionoula," Billy said.
"Fionoula with an 'F,'" Katie Lee said.
"Hey guys," Maria gushed.
Passing off the pups, Billy headed straight to the stage for a soundcheck.
He surveyed the set-up, then went over the 27-song list, killing the classic "Captain Jack" with the strike of a pen.
"I'm really excited because I got a copy of your set-list tonight," Maria told Billy.
"That might change," Billy laughed.
"Really?" Maria asked.
"That's kinda where we start, if I want to mess around, I mess around from there," Billy explained.
For over an hour, Billy tinkers, alternating between a grand piano center stage and a keyboard off to the side.
And Maria had a front row seat!
After a brief run-through with the horn section and several chats with the band – it's showtime!
At 56, Billy hasn't recorded a new pop album in 12 years, preferring to pass the torch to his 20 year-old daughter with Christie Brinkley, Alexa Ray.
Alexa recently played a New York club.
"I kinda snuck in the back," Billy said. "I put the hood over my head, I kind of looked like Bono, you know, and nobody knew I was there and was just watching."
"Does she ever want to redo any of your songs?" Maria wondered.
"No, I think she's aware because of her name and who she is she is going to catch a certain amount of slings and arrows," Billy said. "People will be waiting for her with a knife and a fork, oh yeah."
"Billy Joel's Career Revival"
Singer Billy Joel - A Big International Star In The '70s and '80s - Is Enjoying A Renaissance In The US Following A Difficult Period Overcoming A Drink Problem, and A Flagging Career
By: Damian Fowler
(February 8th, 2006)
"A bottle of red, a bottle of white/Perhaps a bottle of ginger ale tonight."
That's how Joel sang the opening line from his hit song "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" the other night at Madison Square Garden.
Suddenly the 56 year-old "Piano Man" is on a roll, his career magically rejuvenated.
The concert marked the beginning of an historic run of 12 concerts at New York City's famous arena, breaking the record of 10 set by Bruce Springsteen in 2000.
And so he had the confidence to tweak the lyrics to one of his most famous songs to poke fun at his new-found sobriety, following several years of alcohol addiction that kept him in and out of the gossip pages and out of the musical limelight.
It is a welcome return to form for the talented singer and pianist. But this renewed success has surprised many people.
"The industry always seems surprised at Billy's success, and I'm surprised when they're surprised," says Joel's longtime agent, Dennis Arfa.
"Billy's one of these great icons, up there with Springsteen, Buffett, U2, The Rolling Stones, and Elton John. There's a group and he's one of them."
The truth is, many music critics have never really liked Joel, and they don't include him in the pantheon of great artists.
Serious rock writers have tended to consider him a "balladeer" with little of importance to say.
He has long resented the critical black hole he's been placed in, famously ripping up negative reviews on stage to show his anger.
But the question remains: what is his contribution to music?
"If anything, he's the voice of the suburbs. He's one of the few musicians to write about the people whose lives aren't considered very interesting: white, middle-class people," says Debbie Geller, the author of "Billy Joel: An Illustrated Biography."
There are characters like Brenda & Eddie, for example, from his narrative song, "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant," who get married and buy "a couple of paintings from Sears," not to mention the big water bed that they "bought with the bread/They had saved for a couple of years."
Joel has sold upwards of 78 million albums worldwide, although his last album of new material, "The River of Dreams," was released in 1993.
In 2002 he teamed up with choreographer Twyla Tharp to create a Broadway musical called "Movin' Out."
The show was a box-office hit, won two Tony awards and garnered widespread critical acclaim.
But that hasn't impressed the critics. One recent piece of bad press argued that Joel was born at the wrong time.
"Joel came of age in the post-Beatles era, when songwriters grew self-conscious about rock's aesthetic and social significance, and felt compelled to make statements.
"Alas, Joel is a leaden lyricist with nothing to say," wrote Jody Rosen, the music critic for the online magazine, Slate.
Obviously none of this matters to the crowds who are flocking to see the multi-platinum pop star.
Joel has always been a beloved figure in the New York area since he was born and raised in Hicksville, New York - a prototype American suburb on Long Island.
And even during the worst moments of his drinking crisis, Joel redeemed his offstage antics with a performance that cemented his status as a New York hero.
The poignant moment came during a telethon concert just after September 11th, 2001 when Joel sang "New York State of Mind" with a fallen fireman's helmet on his grand piano.
He has recently released a retrospective boxed set called "My Lives" - a career spanning collection of music.
The musician says he stopped writing pop music back in 1993. But that, he insists, doesn't mean he's retired from performing.
And his record-breaking series at Madison Square Garden might begin the second, or third chapter in Joel's unpredictable career.
"Joel's 'Model Citizenship' Way Too Appropriate For Syracuse University"
By: Steve Krakauer
(February 9th, 2006)
Billy Joel's newest "My Lives" tour stops in Syracuse next month, but the new material from Joel won't come out until May 2006. On March 25th, 2006 at the Carrier Dome, Joel will play his old hits. But on May 14th, 2006 at the Carrier Dome, Joel will take the stage to a different tune - as Syracuse University's commencement speaker.
"He's certainly a name everyone knows in virtually every generation," said Dr. Brad Ethington, director of the Syracuse University Setnor School of Music. "I think it's terrific to have a diversity of commencement speakers."
As a musician, Joel is at the top of his field. But he certainly has not been the model citizen. Then again, neither have most graduating seniors. "Only The Good Die Young," right?
Joel's speech won't bring protesters out such as when politicians Rudy Guiliani took the stage in 2001 or Alexander Haig in 1975. But he doesn't write about chimpanzees, either, like last year's commencement speaker Jane Goodall.
No, Joel writes quite often about what he knows: primarily women and booze. Like the old guy sitting next to him at the bar, "making love to his tonic and gin."
The class of 2006 can learn from Joel's exploits with women. At the age of just 21 he married Elizabeth Weber - a tale of young love for the graduating seniors. Or you could just marry a supermodel. Two years after his divorce from Weber, he married Christie Brinkley, a union that lasted for nine years.
Maybe a recent graduate can find his or her own millionaire-musician. Katie Lee did; she married Joel in 2004 shortly after her college graduation from Miami University of Ohio. Her commencement speaker was Andy Rooney, who "just may be the lunatic you're looking for."
Joel has also had some trouble with alcoholism in the past. In 2002 and again in 2005 he spent time in a clinic to solve the problem. But like a true rocker, he took it in stride. Joel said in an article last month picked up by various newspapers, "I don't know about total sobriety - I know a hell of a lot about drinking. Ultimately, I am surprised that people made a big deal about it. I mean, I'm in rock and roll. Going to rehab for people like me is like getting your teeth cleaned."
Joel exhibits another great quality for graduating seniors: that of never giving up. In 2002 he got into a one-car accident on his native Long Island. A few months later, a second crash, where he hit a tree. But Joel did not quit. In 2004, he slid into a house on a slick road. Even three crashes in two years couldn't slow down the "Piano Man." He "took the good times," and he's taken the bad times.
Not surprisingly, no one has been very vocal either way with the commencement choice. "There is not usually a lot of response to the choice. So far we haven't heard anything," said Mary Jane Nathan, executive director of the Office of Special Events.
So whether the Class of 2006 decides to "hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood," after graduation, at least Joel will be there to keep everyone in a New York state of mind.
"For 'The Longest Time,' He's Been Sure That It 'Ain't No Crime' To Keep The Faith With Billy Joel"
By: Ryan Cormier
(February 10th, 2006)
"Call me a joker/Call me a fool/Right at this moment/I'm totally cool." - Billy Joel, "I Go To Extremes," 1989.
Moving from Long Island, New York to Delaware as a teenager and realizing Billy Joel isn't cool (no matter what the moment) was a bit of a shock.
The transition from thinking everyone liked Joel to realizing he's a guilty pleasure that you shouldn't admit to just anybody is still weird for me.
It's kind of like moving away from this area and realizing that the rest of the world thinks the Philadelphia Eagles are actually pretty lame.
So with that known, I will freely admit right now against my better judgment that I really like Billy Joel.
Sure, the guy's sold more than 100 million albums, cranking out hit after hit in between his 1971 debut "Cold Spring Harbor" and his "Famous Last Words" on 1993's swan song, "River of Dreams," but I still get a lot of concerned looks when I let out my dirty little secret.
A few weeks ago, a colleague originally from California drilled it home when he said, "When I moved to the East Coast, I was surprised there were so many seemingly normal people who thought Billy Joel was cool."
But, as we all know by now, I'm not alone.
For some, it's surprising to hear he will be doing five shows at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center, starting Tuesday night. (Hopefully I'll be able to make it out there and check it out.) And even more jaws dropped when it was announced Joel had sold-out 12 Madison Square Garden shows, breaking the record of 10 set in 2000 by Bruce Springsteen.
But first, some personal history.
Joel is so ingrained in Long Island life that my middle school history teacher used "We Didn't Start The Fire" as a teaching tool.
For about a week, we listened to the song, examined the lyrics, and learned the history of Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley and Disneyland.
Even with all that great public education, I still don't know what "rock and roller cola wars" means.
On the Island, it was known that Joel regularly visited the local firehouse in his neighborhood, bringing firefighters a few cold beers and chatting them up. He's built up quite a reputation as an Everyman.
And long after I found myself a Billy Joel fan, he stepped up big time for working families like mine on Long Island, New York. My grandfather was a lobsterman when he moved to New York from Canada in the late 1960s, and both my father and my brother have followed in his footsteps, working the Long Island Sound ever since. In 1999, a mysterious die-off devastated the industry, and by 2000 Joel was pushing for federal aid to help the blue-collar fishermen.
So, there's quite a connection between Long Islanders and Joel, a connection intensified by Island-influenced songs like "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," "The Downeaster 'Alexa'," "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant," "The Ballad of Billy The Kid," and "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)."
Heck, he still lives out there, albeit in a mansion that would make Charles Cawley drool. He even has a strong attraction to Long Island's flora, crashing his car into trees and bushes there every couple of years.
Even without my local connection to his music, there's still plenty about it to appreciate. A lot of his songs are actually well-crafted pop tunes, the result of studying and growing up on the Beatles.
And even though he hasn't put out a new album in 13 years and pretty much reduced himself to a 56 year-old nostalgia act, his old songs are so good, they have stuck with his fans, young and old, making even these blatant money-grabbing tours a draw for thousands.
So, sure it might be weird that there are tons of people like me who would pay $75 to see him play songs from the 1970s in a cavernous sports stadium, but the shows are a guaranteed good time for Joel fans.
And I grin when I think about how he somehow he escaped his own gloomy prediction, which he sang about on 1974's "The Entertainer." "I am the entertainer, the idol of my age/I make all kinds of money when I go on the stage/You've seen me in the papers, I've been in the magazines/But if I go cold, I won't get sold/I'll get put in the back in the discount rack/Like another can of beans."
"Step Away From The Piano, Man; Don't Ask Her Why Anyone Thinks Billy The Old Is Still Hip"
By: Patricia Talorico
(February 10th, 2006)
Don't go changing, to try and please me,
You've let me down before.
I'd imagine it's because you're too familiar
And, Billy Joel, I don't want to see you anymore.
At the risk of offending the thousands of fans holding tickets for his five Wachovia Center concerts, Billy Joel doesn't have my unspoken passion.
And that's just the way things are.
To me, the bug-eyed rocker who hasn't recorded an album of new pop songs in more than a decade is a piano-pounding peddler of kitschy, cornball nostalgia. Now, he's touring to promote his four-CD retrospective boxed set "My Lives," and judging by some recent concert set lists, Joel is once again cashing in on the same old stale songs that may have been compelling 20-plus years ago, but today just seem like clichéd chestnuts.
Maybe "I Go To Extremes," but I'm beyond bored with Joel's saloon schtick and catalogue of overplayed, golden moldies Enough already with the treacly "She's Got A Way" and wedding reception standard "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me." And watching a 56 year-old, car-crashing, rehabbed millionaire still perform "Prelude/Angry Young Man" – something he hasn't been in, oh, three decades - is as pathetic as watching a sixty-something Roger Daltrey trying to recapture his youth while belting out "My Generation."
There was a time in my life when I did sing along to Joel's songs. Shortly before a religion class years ago, my friend and I were scolded by a nun for singing "Only The Good Die Young." (I'm fairly certain it was the "you Catholic girls start much too late" line that didn't sit too well with her.) But later, when music became more important in my life, The Talking Heads, U2, REM, Fine Young Cannibals, and Bruce Springsteen tended to occupy more of my listening time than "Captain Jack" ever did.
For sure, Joel has never been a critics' darling, and many have dismissed his mainstream music as "ear candy." The biggest turn-offs for me were the misogynistic bent of "She's Always A Woman" and the way he dwelled in a glory days past, never seeming to move beyond a longing to be one of the Brenda & Eddies, the popular steadies, the king and the queen of the prom. Witness his eventual modelizer dating life, which included a fling with Elle MacPherson, marriage and eventual divorce to Sports Illustrated cover girl Christie Brinkley and remarriage to TV food journalist Katie Lee, a woman four years older than his daughter Alexa.
And there is the absence of the cool factor. Maybe Billy The Kid was hip back in 1973 with "Piano Man," an album that critics said showcased "his gift for writing catchy tunes and sentimental songs." (Actually, that's a backhanded compliment when you think about it. Rupert Holmes' "Escape - The Piña Colada Song" is another catchy, sentimental song.) But the musician forever lost all street credibility when he did Rockette-style kicks with Brinkley in the hopelessly cheesy "Uptown Girl" video.
There's a huge market for misty-colored, way-we-were memories. (How else to explain all those mostly sold-out shows?) Yet Joel may not believe what he shills. In fact, he understands that back-in-the-day sentiment is often overrated. Just listen to the lyrics of "Keeping The Faith," a song about not living in the past: "You can linger too long in your dreams/say good-bye to the oldies but goodies, 'cause the good ole days weren't always good/and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems."
His concerts tend to appeal to mature music fans who once worshipped at the foot of the stage, but now want everyone to sit down during the slow songs. These are my people. I understand them. But, if I'm going to deal with the hassle of a rock concert - praying that no one pukes on my shoes or sloshes me with beer - it certainly won't be for Joel.
What is his enduring appeal? Is it going to a concert and knowing all the words to every song? If so, save yourself more than 50 beans a ticket and listen to his three Greatest Hits CDs or, better still, flip on one of those oldies station that seem to play Joel songs, especially "Piano Man," in endless rotation.
Die-hard defenders of "His Joelness" will argue that to really appreciation the artist you must see him live. Nobody can play the keyboard like him - the piano sounds like a carnival! He's no longer drinking beer! Blah, blah, blah. And, true, seeing someone live can change your view of them. I never thought I liked folk singer John Prine until I saw him perform at The Tower Theatre.
But seeing Joel
live had just the opposite effect on me.
Throughout the night, I had a nagging sense that Joel reminded me of someone I knew. Dressed in black, the short, chubby musician was showing his age, and it made me feel depressed and old. Then, he made an off-color, cringe-worthy quip about balding that can’t be repeated in a family newspaper. Suddenly it hit me. Joel looked like my Uncle John with a lot less hair. Rockers should never look like your Uncle John. If I want to see boozy, middle-age guys singing and telling dirty jokes, I'll just pour a highball and go to the next family Christmas party in Jersey.
Joel recently told Knight Ridder News "I've shot my mouth off enough. What I have to say is not all that fascinating. You know what? It's time to shut up!"
Exactly. "Honesty" is such a lonely word.
"Philadelphia Is In A Billy Joel State of Mind"
Five Sold-Out Shows at The Wachovia Center Prove The Decades Have Done Nothing To Cool His Fans' Ardor
By: David Hiltbrand
(February 12th, 2006)
What are you doing for Valentine's Day?
Nearly 20,000 folks will be spending the evening at the Wachovia Center for a Billy Joel concert.
That's entirely fitting because Philly loves Billy. It's a love affair that dates to 1972, when WMMR began playing a pirated version of "Captain Jack." And Joel's latest run of five sold-out shows at the Wachovia proves that the decades have done nothing to cool our ardor.
The feeling is mutual. "I have to acknowledge my gratitude to the city," Joel said. "It's where I got started. Philadelphia picked up on me long before New York City. So it's your fault. You guys are responsible for this legacy."
It's a tradition of success that Joel continues to expand. In fact, by the time the "Piano Man" finishes this stand at the Wachovia Center, he will have set some significant box-office records at the big sports arena. (He already holds the mark for the most sellouts from a single tour: seven from his 1998-99 campaign.) With these shows, he becomes the most successful headliner in the 10-year history of the venue. In fact, because of Billy, they're going to have to redecorate the joint.
Just as Billy Penn long loomed over the city's skyline, two artists have dominated Philadelphia's musical scene in the modern era: Bruce Springsteen, who represents the heroic, anthemlike side, and Joel, who embodies the sentimental and balladic.
Banners for the two 56 year-old performers hang in the rafters at the Wachovia Center. Decorated in the Flyers' war colors, they are emblazoned with the number of times each man has sold out the major South Philly venues - the Wachovia Center, the Spectrum, Veterans Stadium and Lincoln Financial: 43 for Springsteen and 41 for Joel. On March 30th, 2006, the night of Joel's fifth and final show, a new, revised banner (46) will be hoisted.
The city's overall box-office champ is still the Grateful Dead, but it never played the Wachovia Center. A tie-dyed banner hangs in the Spectrum, marked with the number of times (53) the band played that building. There's some dispute, by the way, over the accuracy of that tally, but then Deadheads tend to be a little fuzzy on math. The banner does not reflect two shows at JFK Stadium.
At this point, some of you are probably struggling with a strong sense of déjÀ vu. Billy Joel - the hottest ticket in town? What year is this?
It's understandable. After all, Joel hasn't put out an album of original pop music in 13 years. These days, he's more likely to make news for his car crashes than his music.
But at 56, Joel can still make the "Turnstiles" spin.
"Selling concert tickets is about demand, and Billy hasn't been around in a while," said Billboard's touring editor, Ray Waddell. "He's a great entertainer with a whole lot of hits that people love. And he's a guy who has a lot of rapport with an audience."
Certainly, Joel has always commanded unusual loyalty from his fans. Tom Biltcliff, for instance, wouldn't miss opening night at the Wachovia Center. "I've liked different artists at certain points in my life," said the 44 year-old mayor of Topton, Pa. "But he's the only one I can listen to over and over. Billy's music I never seem to tire of."
This will be Biltcliff's 25th Billy Joel concert, but it has special significance for him: For the first time, he's bringing his two children.
"It's very neat that I can share one of the big parts of my life with them," said Biltcliff. He's hoping that his idol will play the somewhat obscure "All For Leyna" because Biltcliff's 6 year-old daughter is named after the song.
The mayor may get his wish. "In this series of shows, we're concentrating more on album tracks," Joel said. "I'm not just a singles artist. I'm trying to present a complete picture of my work."
Joel is in the midst of setting records at Madison Square Garden, too, with 12 sold-out shows, but he isn't the only past-his-prime rocker who's still raking it in. Billboard recently published a chart of the year's top moneymakers, tallying up album and digital sales as well as concert revenue. Seven of the top 10 - including Paul McCartney, Neil Diamond, the Eagles and Elton John - are what are now generously referred to as "legacy acts." (No one wants to be stuck with the "oldies" label.)
At halftime during the Super Bowl in Detroit last weekend, the Rolling Stones were introduced as "the greatest rock and roll band in the world." Surely, by this point, that familiar title should carry an asterisk to indicate senior division. Mick Jagger may still be spry at 62, but he's older than three sitting Supreme Court justices.
It used to be that artists toured in order to promote their latest album. Now, as rock has matured into an old man's game, most of the big arena acts are pushing their catalogs.
"Look at who else is selling tickets," Billboard's Waddell said. "When's the last time the Rolling Stones had a number-one album? Or Paul McCartney? Concerts are less and less correlated to what's on the radio. It's become about the body of work."
Baby boomers still turn out in massive numbers to see their graying idols. "I talked to a woman who was going to see Billy Joel and she bought seats up in one of the luxury boxes," said Dwight DeWerth-Pallmeyer, director of communication studies at Widener University. "She said, 'I see maybe one concert every three years, so I'm going to spend the bucks.'
"Kids may go to shows at the Electric Factory every weekend," DeWerth-Pallmeyer continued. "But there are maybe 10 acts people my age will go see - people like James Taylor, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel."
If you've ever spent a concert seated behind a 50 year-old dentist who is rocking out, you know it's not a pretty sight. But you can't stop the Peter Pan generation.
"This group in their 40s and 50s is the first generation to refuse to grow up," said Steve Baron, an associate professor of social science at Montgomery County Community College. "There's an element of denial in their refusal to move toward the issues considered part of middle age."
For boomers, a concert ticket is like a hall pass to revisit their youth. "For middle-age people who are going to see Billy Joel, many of the people they grew up with aren't around anymore - whether parents or friends or entertainers," said Cory Bank, a psychotherapist in Abington. "A concert like this can be very comforting. It can stop time or even turn it back."
Joel, of course, is a special case with strong regional roots. He had his first taste of success in Philadelphia after disc jockey Ed Sciaky of WMMR-FM (93.3) began championing his music. Playing "Captain Jack," which he reserves exclusively for Philadelphia shows, is Joel's way of honoring that history.
"Would he be able to [sell out all these shows] in LA or Dallas or Miami?" asked Andre Gardner, DJ at WMGK-FM (102.9). "I don't think so. It's strictly a New Jersey Turnpike phenomenon - New York to Philly."
"When you look at the whole Northeast, there's this huge affinity for his music and his ability to tie that music in with the lifestyle and culture of this area," said John Page, a senior vice president and general manager at Comcast-Spectacor, which owns and runs the Wachovia Center. "They know Billy is going to give them their money's worth."
That's for sure. One of things that endears Joel to his fans is his insistence on capping ticket prices at a reasonable $77. Some of his contemporaries have been grabbing as much as the market will bear. Tickets to the Stones' recent shows at the Wachovia Center, by comparison, cost as much as $450.
So does Joel have anything special up his sleeve for this visit to his adopted hometown? "Certain of my songs have a Pennsylvania connotation. There's a reference to the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 'You're My Home,' and 'Allentown' mentions the Jersey Shore. That always resonates with the Philadelphia crowd," he said. "And of course, 'Captain Jack.' We always play that in Philadelphia."
All together now: "But Captain Jack will get you high tonight/And take you to your special island..."
Billy Joel wasn't always an arena act. Back in the day, he had to scramble for bookings in Philadelphia.
"I still have very vivid memories of playing the Main Point [then in Bryn Mawr]. I remember playing at a place called the Bijou [Cafe on Lombard Street]," he says.
"I remember playing the Academy of Music where they had that slanted stage. It's funny, the piano is always set up sideways and the stage at the academy is canted down toward the audience. Every time I played there, I felt like I was going to tip over. I swear, it had nothing to do with drinking."
By: George Rush & Joanna Molloy
(February 14th, 2006)
Billy Joel wasn't planning on singing "She's Always A Woman" the other night the Garden. That is, until he heard that Pink and hubby Corey Hart, who were in the audience, had played it at their wedding. Pink thanked the "Piano Man" with a shriek…
"He Had 'em Feeling All Right"
At The First of Five Sold-Out Shows at The Wachovia Center, Billy Joel Held Fast To A Defiant Spirit, and Gave His Fans Reasons To Be Happy
By: Keith Harris
(February 16th, 2006)
Billy Joel sure
can complain. For 2½ hours at the Wachovia Center on Tuesday night,
the "Piano Man" sang out against cynics, idealists, showbiz
phonies, coked-up big shots, work, unemployment, manipulative women,
miserable women, Catholic women, and all those who would accuse him
of having started "the fire."
And yet, the pleasure Joel takes in his own cranky defiance brought together everyone, from the zealot waving his "JOEL FN" license plate to the women down front who looked barely old enough to buy their own plastic cups of beer to couples of all ages.
Have you ever enjoyed the camaraderie of strangers in a slow-moving bank line, united by the common belief in the rest of the world's stupidity and incompetence? Now imagine the consolations of that disgruntled smugness blown up into the catchiest pop songs you know all the words to. (Plus a couple of lesser-known accomplishments from Joel's back catalogue, including the jazzy "Stiletto" and the obsessive "All For Leyna.")
As thought-through as those words are, Joel's ease with a melody consistently overwhelms them. That's why the sweeping "New York State of Mind" inspires civic pride regardless of your area code, and the deeply patronizing "She's Always A Woman" instigates oblivious mass cuddling.
Despite a soulful "She's Got A Way," dedicated to Joel's wife, Katie, romantic moments were few. The squat Long Islander has doggedly played down his reputation as a balladeer, and on this Hallmark holiday he seemed especially keen to prove his rock pedigree. He abandoned a snarky "My Funny Valentine" after a few bars, but plowed through AC/DC's "Highway To Hell," with hearty vocals from Joel's longtime roadie, "Chainsaw."
Joel, backed by a seven-piece band in the first of five sold-out shows, can still confuse "rocking out" with "pushiness," and up-tempo hits like "Pressure" and "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" felt rushed and willfully adolescent. But the show's two purest pleasures - the '50s flashback "Keeping The Faith" and the midlife interlude "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" - tempered the joys of nostalgia with an insistence that being an adult isn't all that bad. During the latter, Joel amusingly riffed off his battle with alcoholism, singing, "Bottle of red, bottle of white/I won't be having either tonight."
For all his attitude, though, Joel is best when making something beautiful from the melancholy of losers who have sunk far past the point of defiance. "Allentown" is a bleaker unemployment song than Springsteen would ever allow himself, because its tuneful flow reinforces just how mundane everyday misery can be. On the crowd favorite, "Captain Jack," no amount of insight or self-consciousness can save a disaffected 21 year-old from the tedium of his shallow life.
And during the final encore, an inevitable arm-in-arm singalong of "Piano Man," the line "We're all in the mood for a melody" rang out clearest of all. Just like the song's barroom stragglers, the entire audience had forgotten whatever it might have had to complain about.
"'Transformed' Billy Joel Excites Sold-Out Crowd"
By: Mark Leiser
(February 16th, 2006)
Aging rockers touring behind new albums often jam set-lists with current material, sacrificing the very style for which they've become revered in hopes of proving they've evolved.
But the five-disc boxed set spurring Billy Joel's first solo tour since 1999 offers a mix of studio outtakes, hidden album gems and unreleased versions of songs that eventually became etched in America's musical lexicon.
It has allowed him the freedom this time around to put new twists on familiar melodies, dust off tunes he hasn't performed live in 20 years and, ultimately, let the song catalog he has built the past four decades illustrate his musical transformation.
Joel took to the stage Tuesday night at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center - his first of five sold-out concerts there - to the orchestral theme from "The Natural."
His fingers quickly pounced on the ivories in rapid fire, nailing the intro to the show-opening "Prelude/Angry Young Man" with trademark intensity.
Joel touched on every stage of his career through the 2.5-hour, 29-song set.
He pleased die-hards with obscure selections such as the bitterly cynical "Everybody Loves You Now" and the blistering "All For Leyna." He thankfully sacrificed some of his more kitschy radio hits in favor of the less-frequently performed "You're My Home" and "The Entertainer."
Joel, 56, introduced a few songs, supplying their vintage and sharing insights into their inspiration.
Yet Tuesday's show offered less of the kibitzing and sometimes forced humor that dominated previous performances.
This time, he let his music do the talking.
He seemed energized on stage, a far cry from his last trip to town when he admittedly was growing weary of the road.
He even poked fun at his newfound sobriety, improvising the lyrics of "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" to croon, "A bottle of red, a bottle of white, I'll be having neither one tonight."
There were weak moments. The band, which includes a couple newcomers, sometimes lacked timing, and why the history lesson set to music known as "We Didn't Start The Fire" continues to be a set list mainstay is a head-scratcher.
Still, Joel and his mates fared well on the whole.
Joel's voice was surprisingly strong, even hitting the high notes in "An Innocent Man" for the first time in recent memory without back-ups.
While fans greeted the first bars of "New York State of Mind" with a lukewarm reception, Richie Cannata quickly won them over with the sharpest of several soaring saxophone solos.
Joel also tipped his cap to his host city, performing the blue-collar anthem "Allentown" in mid-set and donning a Flyers hat for two songs late in the show.
He brought the crowd to its feet with the opening synthesizer riff to "Captain Jack," a song festooned with drug references that - thanks to requests from listeners of WMMR - helped catapult Joel to fame in the early 1970s.
Joel, who performs the song almost exclusively in Philadelphia, soaked in the standing ovation and offered a wry smile as the final chords wafted through the arena.
"It's good to know there's still a lot of sick people in Philly," he joked.
"Drummer Says Joel Moved Him Out"
By: George Rush & Joanna Molloy
(February 23rd, 2006)
Drummer Liberty DeVitto has been on every Billy Joel tour since 1974. So why wasn't he hammering the skins at the Piano Man's recent run at Madison Square Garden?
"Artistic differences," says Joel's rep.
"I guess that's what they call it when you try to tell a friend the truth," DeVitto tells us.
DeVitto, who has known Joel since they were teenagers, says their trouble started at the end of their last tour.
"I told him I was getting divorced, my ex-wife was getting everything, could he help me out? I helped him create hits, but I wasn't getting any royalties. The next day, he had the tour manager tell me, 'No way.'"
When Joel didn't invite him to his 2004 wedding to third wife, Kate Lee, DeVitto says, "I wrote him a letter, confronting him about his drinking and certain management issues. People said I discredited him. But then he went into rehab and proved me right."
Lately, DeVitto says, "Billy has said no one is allowed to talk to me." Seeking conversation, DeVitto has been talking to Mark Bego, whose Joel bio, "River of Dreams," is due out next December. (It's Bego's 50th book.)
Meanwhile, DeVitto has put together a smoking band, the NYC Hit Squad, featuring vets from Deep Purple, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, and the Asbury Dukes. They play The Cutting Room tonight.
"Billy Joel Pays For His Car Insurance"
By: Roger Friedman
(February 27th, 2006)
Back in the real world: Saturday night.
Billy Joel played his seventh in a series of shows at Madison Square Garden that will take him through April 2006. He joked that he needed the money "to pay his car insurance," a reference to his many infamous car wrecks on Long Island, several the result of being impaired.
No matter - Billy Joel circa 2006 never looked or sounded healthier.
Howard Stern and girlfriend Beth Ostrosky sat in the VIP area, as did Billy's young wife, Katie Lee, and his slightly younger musician daughter Alexa, who brought two school friends.
They were lucky to get seats. Believe it or not, on the seventh night, Billy’s show was completely sold-out. The Garden had that bursting to the top feel, and because Billy’s stage set allows it, there were no "obstructed view" seats - everything was taken.
And it was a rowdy crowd of mostly middle-aged people who danced and sang along to the music through every single song.
It was kind of surreal - and very moving - at the end, when 15,000 voices in unison knew every word of "Piano Man." I realized that it was exactly 30 years ago that I saw Joel play the tiny Cellar Door in Washington, DC. He opened with "Prelude/Angry Young Man," just as he did on Saturday, only just a handful of people were there then and no one knew if he was going to make it through a third album. "Turnstiles" was just out, and Billy - despite a hit with "Piano Man" in 1974 - looked like he might be relegated to cult status only.
Of course, two years later we would see "The Stranger" and the hit "Just The Way You Are." The rest is history. But for those of us who loved "Turnstiles," Saturday night's show had a lot of meaning. Billy, with his driving accidents and rehab for alcoholism, is a survivor. He's never been mean to anyone; in fact, he's been a victim a number of times for his largesse, ripped off by former managers, lawyers and in-laws. He still comes off like a local hero, like the neighbor who’s made it. It's quite touching.