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"Years Later, Attila Still Haunts Joel"
By: Rick Gershman
(January 6th, 2006)
On AllMusic.com, a great web-site I check out daily - okay, hourly - there's an awesome review of an 1970 heavy metal album that featured Billy Joel, who performs Thursday at the St. Pete Times Forum.
To be fair, the album predates Joel's phenomenally successful solo career as a singer/songwriter. Attila is the name of the album and the band, composed of Joel, who played organ, and his buddy Jon Small, who played drums.
Joel never was a darling among most critics, even in his heyday in the '70s and '80s. But Attila was another matter entirely. Check out this excerpt from the AllMusic.com review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine:
Many critics, fans, and college students have spent hours debating the serious question of what the worst album in the history of rock actually is. One listen to Attila would provide them with a definitive answer.
Attila undoubtedly is the worst album released in the history of rock and roll - hell, the history of recorded music itself. There have been many bad ideas in rock, but none match the colossal stupidity of Attila.
There's a reason why they're the only heavy rock organ-and-drums duo in the history of rock and roll - it's an atrocious combination.
By the end of the album, it feels as if a drill has punctured the center of your skull - it's that piercing, painful, and monotonous.
Which means that if it came out today, yours truly would be stuck reviewing it for the Times.
We won't get into the album cover, which featured the diminutive Joel, long-haired and bearded, wearing a Hun outfit and standing in a meat locker. (All right, so I guess we just did get into it. Whoops.)
But, hey, young artists can make sizeable missteps. And give Joel credit: He freely acknowledges how awful Attila was on its first - and, not coincidentally, last - album.
Among his comments about the band's performances was this winner:
"The more we played, the more people left."
Big points for candor, Billy.
Excruciating as Attila was, Joel turned right around the following year and released his solo debut "Cold Spring Harbor," featuring his first big single, "She's Got A Way."
It's not likely Attila would have continued under any circumstances, since Joel had an affair with his bandmate's wife, Elizabeth, and they ultimately married.
Funny how Joel made such beautiful music with her after making such horrible music with her husband.
Joel's fans shouldn't worry that he'll be breaking out any Attila tunes in concert any time soon. But it's relevant because last month Joel released a new retrospective, "My Lives," which actually contains one Attila track, "Amplifier Fire."
(I think just "Amplifire" would have been a better title, but what do I know?)
"My Lives" also includes two tracks apiece by two other bands Joel performed in, The Lost Souls and The Hassles.
Regardless, for his first solo rock show in years, expect Joel to stick with a selection from his dozens of hits.
No matter whether Joel's your typical cup of tea, songs such as "Just The Way You Are," "Only The Good Die Young," "You May Be Right," and "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me" are undeniable.
But I'll hold out hope that Billy's ready to reach back into the past and entertain us with one of those infamous Attila tracks.
Maybe the disc's opener, "Wonder Woman?' The closing track, "Brain Invasion?" How about the cut called "Godzilla, Pt. 1?"
What do you say, Billy?
Maybe it's time for "Godzilla, Pt. 2."
"Joel Plays For The Real Fan"
Billy Joel's New Tour, Which Kicked Off In Sunrise Saturday, Is A Hit Because He Avoids Tired Hits
By: Howard Cohen
(January 8th, 2006)
This has been a good time to be a Billy Joel fan in South Florida.
First, there's "Movin' Out," that terrific narrative dance Broadway show based on his songs, now playing Broward Center for the Performing Arts through January 15th, 2006. Next, a six-night run at Miami Beach's Jackie Gleason on January 24th, 2006.
Saturday evening Joel, who has also bought property in Miami Beach, opened the first of two standing-room-only concerts at Sunrise's Your-Name-Here Arena to an adoring audience.
(It's the BankAtlantic Center but given how often the venue adopts a new corporate handle at this rate who knows if that will be its name when Joel performs his second show there January 15th, 2006).
For "Movin' Out," choreographer Twyla Tharp brought together two dozen Joel classics to fashion a Vietnam-era tale. In concert Joel, 56, gathers his old songs, too, but it's hard to figure for what purpose. He has no new CD to promote. In fact, he famously retired from writing pop songs, penning his last one at the age of 43, all of which makes lines he wrote for 1983's "Keeping The Faith" seem prescient and damning.
"...If it seems like I've been lost in let's remember / If you think I'm feeling older and missing my younger days / Oh, then you should have known me much better / 'Cause my past is something that never got in my way..."
Except, of course, Joel's past is in his way and it's what he's celebrating on this tour. Yet his voice is in sturdy shape; his hard-driving band, always top-notch, remains so, and this time included a fine horn section, enlivening tunes like "Big Man On Mulberry Street," "Zanzibar," and "New York State of Mind."
Few pop stars have built such a reliable catalogue and time hasn't dulled the pleasures of most of these songs. We still hope Virginia shakes the shackles of her Catholic upbringing and dallies with the singer. We feel the pain of the unemployed in "Allentown." We're glad Joel doesn't bow to political correctness and keeps the lyrics of 1978's slicing "Stiletto" intact.
Joel also seems engaged by his music and thankfully isn't reduced to offering rote versions of his hit singles the way his sometimes touring mate, Elton John, has been guilty of on recent tours.
Joel may be playing the "let's remember" game but he earns major points for bravado on this tour by studiously avoiding his hits, opting instead for album tracks from deep within his catalog. "I don't know if I'll remember some of these songs," he warned. For more than an hour, after opening with the Top 40 "Piano Man," Joel sang nary a major hit single. From "Glass Houses" the casual fan might expect the smashes "You May Be Right" and "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me." Instead, he delivered "All For Leyna," "Sometimes A Fantasy" and "Sleeping With The Television On." Joel even dug out obscurities such as "Laura," "The Great Wall of China," and "The Night Is Still Young," prefacing the latter with the hopeful, "I hope we don't fuck this up."
He didn't. This was a show for the real fan and no doubt many others will complain the radio favorites were missing, but, c'mon, haven't you heard "My Life" enough in your life?
Opening night of
this tour wasn't without its bugs, however. The lighting director clearly
irritated Joel by seldom shining the spotlight on the drummer, whom
Joel needed to see for his song's intros. Instead, blinding white lights
were aimed squarely into the audience's eyes, which made watching large
parts of this concert akin to driving while the idiot behind you has
his brights on.
The video monitors, in center hall, were not adequate for everyone to see what was happening on stage. And given that Joel must remain seated since he's the pianist, someone will always be staring at his backside. At least he had a good sense of humor. "Sorry you're seeing the back of my head," he said to one side of the arena, rubbing his now balding head, "but nowadays you can see yourself in it."
"Billy Joel's Still Got A Way About Him"
(January 9th, 2006)
Conceding that 1990s MTV probably wouldn't have much use for a paunchy, middle-aged tunesmith, Billy Joel wisely capped a sturdy 20-year chart run by announcing more than a decade ago that he was done with hit-radio, record-label politics - and big tours.
While he's kept his promise in the studio (choosing instead to dabble in classical compositions, give college master classes and oversee "Movin' Out," the Broadway interpretation of his story-songs), arenas continue to be an occasional lure - both on his own and with sometime touring partner Elton John.
On his first solo tour in seven years, Joel quickly makes clear that he's not interested in a mere recital of the hits. While the tour ostensibly supports his new Sony boxed set "My Lives," there is, of course, no new material to promote, leaving him to stretch artistically via his extensive catalogue of album tracks.
Although rarely heard today, songs such as "Stiletto" and "Zanzibar" from "52nd Street" and "Everybody Loves You Now" from "Cold Spring Harbor" certainly hold up and are likely well-known to most fans given that many played these albums from beginning to end all through high school and college.
Although one particular album segment of this show is probably a little too long - and truly obscure cuts like 1993's "The Great Wall of China" should be jettisoned - in general Joel's act plays very much as it did 30 years ago. The stark set, the 'round-the-back ramp (on which he no longer sprints but now shuffles), the veteran bandmates, the saloon-style patter, the affordable ticket prices (about $39.00-$80.00) - are all comfortable reminders of a different era in popular music.
While Joel no longer does handstands off his grand piano, he does exert himself. During the underrated 1990 confection "I Go To Extremes," he kicked over his chair, turned around and hit the piano keys with his backside. He picked up his guitar (something he doesn't do often enough) for a crisp "We Didn't Start The Fire." And hits such as "Piano Man," "New York State of Mind," "Movin' Out," "You May Be Right" and "Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)" were freshened with a robust delivery that belied their familiarity.
Just as Paul McCartney and Elton John now adopt a professorial tone onstage, Joel too tells short tales before and after songs that create a context and intimacy rarely found at a 20,000-seat sell-out. In fact, his fans continue to prove exceedingly loyal. This is a tour that's selling like mad, with multiple dates in most markets despite almost no publicity.
Although opening night tech glitches were plentiful, all were handled with inevitable light-hearted banter, something that lately seems to be a trend among veteran artists eager to illustrate just how un-perfect, un-computerized and unscripted their shows can be.
"'Piano Man' Rallies After Curious Twist"
By: Glenn Gamboa
(January 9th, 2006)
Billy Joel pulled it out in the end, like his beloved Yankees trying to salvage a season.
Halfway through the launch of his latest tour - his first as a solo headliner in nearly seven years - here at the BankAtlantic Center Saturday night, it wasn't exactly a sure thing.
Joel opened strong with "Piano Man" and grand versions of "Allentown" and "New York State of Mind" quickly followed. But the early inclusion of "Everybody Loves You Now," a nugget from 1971's "Cold Spring Harbor," and a Beatles-esque take on "Laura" from 1982's "The Nylon Curtain" suggested that he was easing the crowd into a different kind of Billy Joel show - one that supported his recent "My Lives" boxed set, which collected rare tracks and demos from throughout his career.
But that didn't come close to preparing them for the show's huh?-inducing mid-section: "Stiletto," "Zanzibar," "Great Wall of China," "All For Leyna," "Sometimes A Fantasy," "Sleeping With The Television On," "The Night Is Still Young," "Big Man On Mulberry Street," and "Where's The Orchestra?"
Granted, it's a boon for many fans to see these songs - especially the lovely "Where's The Orchestra?" - performed for the first time. And it's quite daring for Joel to go that long without throwing in one of his best-known hits. Unfortunately, it didn't work and it seems Joel could tell, since he "called an audible" on stage to let the band and crew know he was moving the rocker "Sometimes A Fantasy" up in the set.
There's little to complain about the songs individually, since Joel's voice and his first-rate backing band were as strong as ever. But taken together, they slowed the pace too much and erased the momentum generated by the start.
It's all part of the process of building a new tour - along with getting the lighting cues right so that Joel could see drummer Chuck Burgi to know when the songs started. Rest assured, Joel fans, by the time he arrives at Madison Square Garden on January 23rd, 2006, for the first of - at last count - nine concerts through March 2nd, 2006, this will, no doubt, be fixed by a couple of substitutions.
Starting with "Keeping The Faith," Joel began building the energy level again, before finishing the set with a powerful quartet of rockers - "I Go To Extremes," "We Didn't Start The Fire," "Big Shot," and "You May Be Right." All four benefited from some new harmony arrangements that showcase Crystal Taliefero's vocals more and get some heft from guitarist Tommy Burns, bassist Andy Cichon and saxophonist Mark Rivera.
"River of Dreams," the first encore, had Joel and the band running like a well-oiled machine, putting to rest any worries about Joel handling a full two-hour-plus show on his own again after years of abbreviated sets he co-headlined with Elton John.
After all, few veteran rockers can close a show like Joel. And when he unleashes his murderer's row of hits, he is next to unstoppable.
"Joel Shows No Rust At Jacksonville, Florida Tour Stop"
By: Jeff Vrabel
(January 12th, 2006)
No longer the "Angry Young Man" but a grey, assured and fiery one, Billy Joel, in his first solo tour in eight years, is proving that he still knows his way around rock and roll. Especially for a retired guy.
Next phase, new wave, Broadway-pop, cinematic epics, sped-rapped history lessons: Joel has brought many things to many people over his three-plus decades, though he insists he's sticking by the "retirement" from writing and recording pop music that he announced following 1993's "River of Dreams."
To that end, this early stop on the "Piano Man"'s first outing in almost a decade sans Elton John found Joel packing all that he could into an almost two-and-a-half hour show. That included throwing light on some of the cobwebbier corners of his vast catalogue (as he did in boxed set form on last fall's "My Lives") in addition to showing that he still knows precisely what to do when his regular crowd shuffles in.
Joel's Jacksonville, Florida show (only the second on a fast-selling tour that already includes ten shows at Madison Square Garden) amounted to a full-on victory lap. It was a also a chance to set the tour's ground rules; early in the 24-song set, Joel threatened experimentation, and that's what he did (introducing "The Great Wall of China" from 1993's "River of Dreams," he cracked, "If you have to go to the bathroom, you should probably go now, because this is really obscure.") Like Springsteen and McCartney on their most recent outings, Joel's plan of attack-ack-ack-ack-ack involved more than simply handing out hits (notably absent from the set were "Uptown Girl," "She's Always A Woman" and, God bless him, "Just The Way You Are"); he was there in search of long-buried treasure.
Such excavation spanned the first chapters of the show. After the one-two punch of "Prelude/Angry Young Man" and "My Life," both big, baroque set pieces which successfully survived the trip from the '70s (even if those whitewall tires haven't), Joel began rifling around. He dug up the theatrically sinister "Stiletto," whose serpentine groove was augmented nicely by Mark Rivera's sax work and the band's intimidating-looking finger snaps. Introducing the jazzbo "Zanzibar," he remarked that after cutting the song in the studio he and his band "felt like adults." "Sometimes A Fantasy" dripped with gooey synthesizer; "Sleeping With The Television On" worked up a solid, guitar-fueled lather.
But if Joel used the early half of the night for rummaging and evaluation ("That one worked!" he smiled to his band after 1971's "Everybody Loves You Now"), the late half was reserved for a rock block: "I Go To Extremes," "We Didn't Start The Fire," "Big Shot" and "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," the latter two of which he delivered sporting a backwards ball cap thrown on stage, which was a nice touch. Closing the main set: an ageless and roaring "You May Be Right." Saved for the encore: "Only The Good Die Young," "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" and that one about getting his fans feeling alright.
Despite what he indicated in a few age-related gags (those seated behind his rotating piano at any given time, he said, could "check themselves out in the back of my head"), Joel looked fit and sounded better. He dished up a sterling "New York State of Mind" with timeless ease and unleashed "Goodnight Saigon" to even better effect. One can't help but think that after a few more installments of this quick-selling trek, Joel may want to rethink that business about retirement. He's already survived the noble fight, and there's little doubt left that he - and his fans - remain in the mood for his melodies.
"'Piano Man' Still Attracts The Fans"
Billy Joel Packed The House for A Jacksonville, Florida Concert Tuesday Night
By: Jeff Vrabel
(January 11th, 2006)
It's 7pm on a Tuesday. The regular crowd shuffles in.
Actually, though the crowd for Billy Joel's concert at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is certainly larger than that found at most piano bars, it's hardly regular.
The Jacksonville, Florida stop was only the second on his first solo tour in eight years, but if early ticket sales are any indication, plenty of folks are still in the mood for his melodies. Demand has been impressively high across the country - he's up to nine shows at Madison Square Garden this year - and Jacksonville was no exception.
Tammy and Tony Rael, both of Jacksonville, went the traditional route, buying tickets in person at the Orange Park Mall. As both are longtime fans - "she's the 'Uptown Girl,' I'm the 'Piano Man,'" Tony Rael said. He waited in line "for a good 90 minutes" for tickets the day they went on sale. "And I wasn't close to the front of the line. How can an old guy sell out that fast?" he wondered, laughing.
"There's more of us than the young ones!" answered Tammy.
Tony said he's been a Joel fan since the age of 14, right around the time of "Glass Houses." But Tuesday marked the first time he had a chance to see Joel live.
Self-described "concert queen" Debbie Muehlheuser of Ponte Vedra Beach, meanwhile, waited outside the ticket window about 90 minutes before showtime with a plan. Muehlheuser didn't have tickets yet, but her strategy involves waiting until the last minute to purchase some of the last few tickets at the box office. "It's worked for Van Halen, it's worked for Usher. I got real good Aerosmith seats last weekend," she said.
As for Joel, Muehlheuser said she doesn't "listen to him" but was looking forward to a big show. And though her friend Becky Kalousdian, also of Ponte Vedra Beach, is hardly a concert regular ("I've only been here for the Gaithers," Kalousdian laughed) she was excited as well. Both women's most-requested songs of the night: "Piano Man" and "Uptown Girl."
Cathy Holsclaw and Tina Cabaniss, both of Jacksonville, also described themselves as semi-regular concertgoers who purchase tickets to about 12 shows a year and said they had much more difficulty getting tickets online than usual. Holsclaw said that for recent gigs by Aerosmith and Rod Stewart, she scored tickets in a matter of minutes.
"But I didn't get on this time for about 18," she said, adding with a grimace, "and we're up in the 300 level."
Holsclaw was pulling for Joel to play "We Didn't Start The Fire"; Cabaniss' favorite is "New York State of Mind." But both had a much more reasonable prediction for the evening.
"We heard rumors that he sings for an hour and leaves," Holsclaw said. As long as that didn't happen, she said, Joel would have them feeling all right.
"Hot Ticket: 'Piano Man' Gets Party Started"
By: Sean Daly & John Fleming
(January 12th, 2006)
"...Take me to the action! Take me to the track! Take me to a party if they're bettin' in the back!..." When Billy Joel plays the St. Pete Times Forum tonight - and kicks off a bay area concert year that has all the looks of another blockbuster - he'd be wise to play "Easy Money," a forgotten cut from 1983's "An Innocent Man" album (and the title track from the criminally underrated Rodney Dangerfield movie). Joel's funky, horn-tastic tribute to James Brown takes a prominent place on his new rarity-intensive box set, "My Lives," and is a go-go-go reminder that the recently maligned "Piano Man" could once rock with a sense of humor and a sense of swagger.
Joel is 56 now and hasn't made any new pop music in more than a decade. But that doesn't mean he has stayed out of the news: Substance abuse, myriad car accidents and another marriage to a much younger woman have made him a public relations disaster. Nevertheless, Joel has forged a rep as a workhorse live performer, so expect all the hits and a lot of gusto.
"'Piano Man' Rocks With Old Favorites"
Billy Joel Performs Thursday at The St. Pete Times Forum In Tampa, Florida
By: Sean Daly
(January 13th, 2006)
Aging rock stars can often be selfish bores in concert. Clinging to delusions of relevance, they routinely stuff their setlists with forgettable "new stuff" - lackluster songs that usually amount to nothing more than the perfect time for a bathroom break.
That certainly wasn't the case with Billy Joel at the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday. After all, the 56 year-old Long Island legend hasn't recorded any new pop songs in more than a decade. So alas, the only thing he could do was tizzy 19,750 fans with more than two hours of beloved album cuts ("Zanzibar," "The Ballad of "The Ballad of Billy The Kid," "All For Leyna"), know-'em-by-hearters ("My Life," "New York State of Mind," "Big Shot") and one more chance to wave Brenda and Eddie goodbye (we'll get to that swooner in just a bit).
Of course, there was room for worry when the pop-eyed "Piano Man" took to the open oval stage with his eight-piece band. Joel has filled his free time over the past few years with all manner of tabloid naughtiness, from headline-making car crashes to a recent stint in rehab for a dependence on wine.
But Joel's newfound sobriety has given him extra oomph. In fact, you could even say the guy was downright cocky. Joel, looking trim and happy in a black jacket and blue jeans, took a seat behind his black baby grand to the triumphant strains of Randy Newman's orchestral theme for "The Natural." Then, for his first song, he displayed absolutely furious fingerwork on swaggering burner "Prelude/Angry Young Man," pounding away on the ivories and routinely blowing on his blazing digits as if they were too dang hot.
Joel is touring behind a new boxed set, "My Lives," that is filled with demos and rarities and plenty of must-have evidence that he truly was one of the great pop songwriters of his time. His live show proved the same. Some of the night's biggest applause was heard for the shoulda-been-hits, including the apocalyptic beauty of "Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)." Joel's later-career catalogue has always left me bored, and although he tried to put energy into "The River of Dreams" and "I Go To Extremes," those songs paled in comparison to such gems as "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" and "Stiletto."
But no matter. Playing right into longtime fans' hearts, he packed his 24-song setlist with his stellar work from the '70s and '80s, and good lord, he sure wasn't churning out many duds back in the good ol' days. "You May Be Right" remains a ferociously infectious love song, as Joel the buffoon blames a woman for making him act the fool. And it's still absolutely impossible not to move - or, at the very least, feel like robbing a bank - on "Only The Good Die Young," which he hammered out during his encore. Just before saying goodnight, Joel played the two tunes that have made him a hero to all of us who've heard the words "Last call!" far too many times. "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" is his epic, of course, and a perfect display of popmanship that still makes you feel so forlorn for wayward lovers Brenda and Eddie. (And yes, they all waved.)
And finally there was "Piano Man," for which the crowd stood and swayed. Joel even cut the music for the final chorus, allowing his fans to be heard loud and clear. It didn't seem cheesy, to tell you the truth. And let me just say to the cynics: Even if you're sick of the song, you couldn't help but recite aloud those words that will be forever etched in your brain - whether you like it or not.
"Billy Joel's Wife Says Singer Is A Clean Freak"
(January 16th, 2006)
Billy Joel's wife reveals his dirty secret: he doesn't like dirt. Katie Lee Joel, who's a chef, says she cooks at home and Joel follows her around cleaning things up. She says he's a "clean freak" and she tries to keep him out of the kitchen when she's cooking. Joel says they both really like food and her husband is her guinea pig for whatever she's trying to make. The peach cobbler is a success. Joel says that's a favorite dish but she can only make it in the summer.
Katie Lee Joel will host the competition show "Top Chef," which premieres on Bravo on March 8th, 2006.
"Billy Redux: Joel 'Hits' Sunrise"
(January 16th, 2006)
Billy Joel's second show Sunday night at the BankAtlantic
Center in Broward, Florida was everything his January 7th, 2006 tour-kickoff
wasn't - a rollicking, rocking roundup of the "Piano Man"'s
Along the way: "The Ballad of Billy The Kid," "New York State of Mind," You May Be Right," "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," "We Didn't Start The Fire," "The River of Dreams," "My Life," "Pressure," "I Go To Extremes," "Only The Good Die Young," "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" and more.
Joel, who owns a home in Miami Beach, took a somber moment to lament the brutal baseball bat beating and murder last week of homeless men in Fort Lauderdale, Florida before launching into a version of "Allentown," mentioning that he was homeless once himself. ''There by the grace of God go I,'' he said.
"Nine Lives of Billy Joel"
By: Sarah Rodman
(January 17th, 2006)
He's been a "Piano
Man," an "Innocent Man," and a "Stranger."
A crooner, a rock and roller and a classical composer. He's seen the
lights go out on Broadway, said goodbye to Hollywood and sailed on the
"River of Dreams." And this week Billy Joel emerges from semi-retirement
for the first of three shows at the TD Banknorth Garden.
Rock Star Billy
had to be a big shot" (from "Big Shot")
"'Big Shot': Billy Breaks Madison Square Garden Mark"
By: Glenn Gamboa
(January 18th, 2006)
Billy Joel has added a record-breaking 11th show at Madison Square Garden - on April 19th, 2006 - to his current tour and may extend the run even further, as the dates, which start Monday, now stretch into April 2006.
"It may look a little haphazard, but we're working around a lot of different dates," Joel told Newsday recently. "We'll do it as long as there's so much demand. It works for me. I'll be home and just commuting to work."
Joel's tour, supporting his box set "My Lives" (Columbia), bests Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band's record of 10 sold-out nights in 2000.
Joel said he isn't sure whether he will launch another leg of the tour later this year that would include dates at Nassau Coliseum or Continental Airlines Arena.
"Billy Joel Accepts Invitation To Speak at Spring 2006 Commencement"
By: Nic Corbett
(January 19th, 2006)
Recording artist Billy Joel has accepted an invitation to be the commencement speaker for Syracuse University and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry's 2006 graduating class. The graduation ceremony will take place May 14th, 2006 in the Carrier Dome.
"I'm thrilled that Billy Joel has accepted our invitation," said Chancellor Nancy Cantor in a statement. "For years he has been a major voice in music and the arts, which are a big part of life on our campus. We welcome his vision and his commentary about the society in which our graduates will be leaders."
A student committee, made up of the three representatives to the Board of Trustees, the senior class marshals and the student marshals from each school and college at SU, was in charge of the selection process for a commencement speaker. The university community was invited to offer suggestions through a web-site; the suggestions were then supplied to the committee. The committee reviewed the suggestions and made recommendations to the chancellor's office, which then offered the invitation to Joel.
Joel gave $320,000 to Syracuse University's College of Visual and Performing Arts last September, which the college will use to create Billy Joel Fellowships in music composition. Joel also gave endowments to six other East Coast academic institutions to benefit students studying music.
Joel is also scheduled to give a solo concert, called "My Lives," on March 25th, 2006 in the Carrier Dome, as part of the Dome's 25th anniversary.
"Billy Joel To Address Graduates at Syracuse University"
"Piano Man" Accepts Call To Be Keynote Speaker at May 14th, 2006 Commencement, Syracuse University Says
By: Nancy Buczek
(January 19th, 2006)
Syracuse University plans to announce today that entertainer Billy Joel will make two appearances in the Carrier Dome this year: March 25th, 2006 for his previously announced concert, and May 14th, 2006 as Syracuse University's commencement speaker.
"It's exciting. It's a double dose of Billy Joel," said Barbara Bochner, an Syracuse University senior and a member of the student committee that developed a list of possible speakers.
The singer, pianist and songwriter will give the keynote address during the joint commencement of Syracuse University and the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The student committee developed a list of about 20 people from submissions to a university Web site and their own ideas, Bochner said. The chancellor's office then went about securing a speaker from the list.
"Billy Joel To Speak at Syracuse Graduation"
(January 19th, 2006)
Entertainer Billy Joel has added a second appearance in the Carrier Dome - one at which he will talk instead of perform.
Syracuse University announced Thursday that Joel will be the keynote speaker for this year's May 14th, 2006 commencement. The ceremony is held jointly with the graduating class from the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
exciting. It's a double dose of Billy Joel," said Barbara Bochner,
a Syracuse senior and a member of the student committee that developed
a list of 20 possible speakers.
"We welcome his vision and his commentary about the society in which our graduates will be leaders," Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor said in a statement.
In September, Joel gave Syracuse's Setnor School of Music a $320,000 gift to establish musical scholarships and endowments for future composers. He also gave money to six other East Coast schools, including The Juilliard School in Manhattan, the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester and SUNY-Purchase.
Joel, too, has been involved with the VH1 Save The Music Foundation, which gives new instruments to music education programs facing budget cuts, and for nearly two decades he has traveled to college campuses to share his musical knowledge through "Master Classes."
"He's not just someone that our parents listened to. He's still around. His songs are classics," said Bochner, a 21 year-old from New Jersey. "(Students are) not going to say, 'What did that guy do again?' They know exactly who he is."
Since signing his first solo recording contract in 1972, Joel has sold more than 100 million records and recorded 33 Top 40 hits. He has 23 Grammy nominations and a 2003 Tony Award for "Movin' Out." He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, and in 2004 received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
"'Piano Man' Finds Inner Harmony"
Joel Cleans Up His Life - and Cleans Up at Garden Box Office, Too
By: Rebecca Louie
(January 19th, 2006)
Billy Joel's rewritten
his own theme song.
"I'm just not drinking," says the "Piano Man" - who had struggled with a love of bottles of red and bottles of white. "I don't know if I will never have a glass of wine again for the rest of my life, but right now I am not taking any chances.
"There was a time in my life when I was drinking too much, and so I have stopped," adds Joel. "It's an interesting concept. 'Just don't drink.' Hmm! I never thought of that!"
Though he's suffered hard knocks in the past few years (including three car crashes that he says were booze-free), the affable Joel isn't too hard on himself. "I was homeless when I was younger and I was suicidal when I was 21," notes Joel, who also spent two weeks in rehab in 2002. "Anything that has happened after that is like water off a duck's back."
In fact, he's mixing up strong confessional cocktails with a twist of wit.
"Now, [people] ask me about sobriety," the 56 year-old continues, "and I am like, God! Don't make me the poster boy for AA. I don't really know about total sobriety - I know a hell of a lot about drinking! "
"Ultimately, I am surprised that people made just 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 - who's touring to promote his four-CD retrospective boxed set "My Lives" - has cleaned up in local ticket sales. He added an 11th Garden performance (and broke Bruce Springsteen's 10-show Madison Square Garden record) after the first 10 quickly sold-out. He's glad his tour is concentrated in New York and the Northeast, allowing him to stay close to his 24 year-old wife, Katie Lee, whom he wed in 2004.
"I don't like to be away from home a lot," admits Joel, who owns an estate on Centre Island, Long Island, and a townhouse near Greenwich Village (he just sold his six-room TriBeCa loft for around $4.5 million). "I really get homesick a lot at this time in my life."
Though Katie Lee accompanies him to many of his shows, Joel prefers his own digs. There, his professional food-wrangling spouse whips up healthy treats made with what Joel affectionately dubs "hippie food." Just four years older than Alexa Ray - Joel's daughter with ex-wife Christie Brinkley - Katie Lee will debut as a reality-show host in March on Bravo's culinary competition "Top Chef."
And, it's possible the couple may have a bun or two in the oven soon - Joel says the duo is planning on having more than one child.
"One kid would be lonely, wouldn't it?" he asks.
In fact these days, with his tour schedule at a minimum, Joel aspires to domestic labors. "I would be as good a father as I was to Alexa, maybe even better because I'll be home a lot more. I would kind of like to be a house dad, actually."
He's already got two Long Island-based businesses set up so he can be near the family. A nautical nut, Joel has a boat-building operation; his wares sell for roughly half a million dollars a piece. He also has a motorcycle-design company that revamps new bikes to look like old classics.
"I ride my own motorcycles," says Joel, who boasts a collection of 14. Poking fun at his unfortunate auto antics, he adds, "People are like, 'God, the guy is bad enough on cars!' Actually I have a better track record on bikes than I do with cars."
With more than 100 million records sold, Joel, who also won a Tony for the now-touring dance-adaptation of his music "Movin' Out," is still writing material. He's not looking to record any of his work, however, choosing to keep the compositions for himself.
"I have been a recording artist for a long time, and I have had my say," he chuckles. "I suppose I had a lot more ambition and a lot more arrogance when I was younger to think what I had to say was all that important. Now I'm at a point where I say, 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!"
Most Shows at Madison Square Garden In A Single Run
1.) Billy Joel: 11 (2006)
2.) Bruce Springsteen: 10 (2002)
3.) The Grateful Dead: 9 (1988, and again in 1991)
4.) Neil Diamond: 8 (1986)
5.) Elton John: 7 (1976)
1.) Elton John: 55
2.) Grateful Dead: 53
"'Piano Man' Goes To Extremes In Set-List"
By: Sarah Rodman
(January 20th, 2006)
Billy Joel may
have given up writing pop songs more than a decade ago, but in concert
the "Piano Man" is most assuredly "Keeping The Faith."
"Years Later, Joel Remains A Showman's Entertainer"
By: Joan Anderman
(January 20th, 2006)
Billy Joel hasn't put out any new music in 13 years, but he has been practicing piano. The 56 year-old singer/songwriter kicked off his sold-out Madison Square Garden show last night, the first of three Boston dates, as the human jackhammer, nailing the intro to ''Prelude/Angry Young Man," in near-ridiculous rapid fire, chops-heavy band in tow.
Two-and-a-half hours of mostly greatest hits followed, amiably curated by the artist - who supplied vintages, album titles, and brief commentary along the lines of a helpful docent.
''The Ballad of Billy The Kid," we learned, is historically inaccurate. ''The Great Wall of China" was written when he was angry with his ex-manager. And so on. Joel isn't the most charismatic of showmen; he invited fans seated behind the stage to check their make-up on the back of his head. But at his best, he's a fine tunesmith, and even if big-money saloon songs aren't your bag, there's no arguing with ''New York State of Mind" and ''Piano Man." They just work, and Joel and his excellent, old-school sidemen (and woman) played them with all the sentimental gusto they deserved.
There were, not surprisingly, few surprises. A couple of obscure tracks made the set-list - among them ''Everybody Loves You Now," a folk-rocker from 1971's ''Cold Spring Harbor" that, Joel noted, he used to sing at the late great Paul's Mall. The evening was devoted to crowd-pleasers, and the crowd was pleased to hear ''Stiletto," which featured the most acoustically-pristine finger-snapping in memory, ''Zanzibar," with its sleek double-time flugelhorn break, and snappy ''Allentown," during which Joel trotted out his impressive arsenal of man-made factory noises.
That nearly all of the 26 songs have stood the test of time was testament to Joel's often underrated stature as a pop-radio classicist. That ''Just The Way You Are" was excluded from the set was testament to his good taste. Glaring exceptions - performed back-to-back - were ''Sometimes A Fantasy," a dreadful ditty that evoked Pat Benatar in a '50s mood, and ''Sleeping With The Television On," another tinny rocker that strained toward a vaguely distant and unappealing past.
Redemption arrived shortly in the form of a throat-shredding, soul-saturated ''In The Midnight Hour" sung in tribute to Wilson Pickett, who died yesterday.
Despite his milquetoast image, Joel is a political man. ''Goodnight Saigon," a solid sweeping ballad and a moving portrait of war, was ornamented onstage with four actual swaying veterans, arms linked under ghostly lights. And while ''We Didn't Start The Fire" won't advance Joel's guitar-god credentials, it did get fists and blood pumping in preparation for the grand-slam, high-octane (relatively speaking) finale: ''Big Shot," ''It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," ''You May Be Right," ''Only The Good Die Young," ''Scenes From An Italian Restaurant," and ''Piano Man."
On the eve of a record-breaking 11-show run at Madison Square Garden, it's clear neither the passing years nor changing fashions have dimmed Billy Joel's star.
"It's Still Rock and Roll To Him"
For His First Solo Tour In Nearly Seven Years, Billy Joel Will Finally Unearth Many of His Less Familiar Tunes. 'We Have A Pretty Rich Catalogue of Stuff That Wasn't Hits. Actually, Those Are The Songs I Like Better.'
By: Glenn Gamboa
(January 22nd, 2006)
It's (nearly) 9 o'clock on a Saturday. The regular crowd shuffles in.
Thousands of Billy Joel fans - many of whom have seen the "Piano Man" play numerous times - pack the BankAtlantic Center here in the suburbs of Fort Lauderdale, Florida for opening night of his latest tour, ready for him to play them a memory or two, ready to "La lala deedee da, lala deedee da, da dum."
Joel, however, has a different idea. This time out, he wants to make some new memories, for his fans and for himself.
"I don't know if people are going to remember some of these songs we're going to do tonight," Joel says, seated at the piano in the middle of his spare, circular stage. "Hell, I don't know if we're going to remember some of these."
But that's what excites Joel about his current tour, which stops at Madison Square Garden for a record-breaking 11 concerts starting Monday night. It is all about trying something new. It's his first tour as a solo headliner in nearly seven years, the first since becoming half of the biggest-grossing musical duo of all-time with Elton John. It's his first tour since marrying Katie Lee, who will host Bravo's "Top Chef" in March 2006. And it's his first since he completed a highly publicized stint in rehab last year.
"If we're going to keep ourselves interested, we can't play for the reviewer and we can't just play for the audience," Joel says, calling from his base in Miami Beach, Florida. "In the end, you have to just play for yourself."
"Songs In The Attic"
And what interests him most are songs that he has rediscovered from his own catalogue, songs he hasn't played live in years, if at all. "We rehearsed a lot of songs that were album tracks, rather than just rehearsing the songs that were the obvious hits," Joel says. "What we wanted to do was throw stuff out there and see how we feel playing it, how the audience responds to it and what works. We want it to be a show the audience likes as well. We don't want the audience to be walking out of there saying, 'I didn't know anything he did.'"
Most veteran artists rehearse between 30 and 40 songs for a headlining tour. Joel and his band have about 60 songs to choose from each night - including everything from monster hits such as "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" to signature songs such as "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" to obscurities such as "Where's The Orchestra?," a 24 year-old album track that makes its live debut on this tour.
"I've always wanted to do this song, but I never have," Joel tells the Sunrise, Florida crowd before unveiling "Where's The Orchestra?" "Tonight, I'm going to do it."
That's the approach the 56 year-old Joel brings to most things these days.
His "Wasted Effort"
It's been 13 years since he announced his retirement from what he called the rock music rat race - the worries about how radio would receive his records, about how many copies he would sell the first week, about how long he would have to be away from home because he was touring. "I thought that on 'River of Dreams' I had made a quantum leap in my lyric writing," he says. "But it had only one successful single and it kind of got written off after that. I thought, 'Where do you go from there?' Radio was not very receptive to it. I was tired of banging my head against a wall. It seemed like wasted effort."
After "River of Dreams," Joel has continued touring on a limited basis, but he turned most of his creative juices toward writing classical music, a lengthy process that turned into "Fantasies & Delusions" - a collection of arias, waltzes, suites and other instrumentals he released in 2001.
Since then, Joel continues to write music for himself. "I'm writing music that could become classical pieces or songs or a movie soundtrack or a Broadway show," he says. "I don't really know where it will all end up, and that's not really important to me right now because writing is its own gratification."
Tony Bennett Duet
Joel did reveal that he has completed a pop song - which could be his first new nonclassical material since 1993. However, he doesn't plan to sing it.
"I wrote a song recently with Tony Bennett in mind," Joel says, adding that he intends to bring the song to Bennett when they work on a duet together for Bennett's upcoming "Duets" project. "It's like a standard that Tony Bennett would have done in the '50s or '60s. Now I don't know if he's going to want to record it, but to me it's so obviously a Tony Bennett type of song that I don't feel compelled to record [it] as a Billy Joel song. I think it should live in Tony Bennett's world."
Joel's decision to stop recording new material remains a brave one, but also one that hasn't seemed to hurt his popularity or his touring. While most acts, even veterans such as the Rolling Stones, rely on new albums to help boost interest in their tours, Joel hasn't needed them.
"I don't need to see him do any new stuff," says Matthew Licht, who says he has seen Joel eight times, minutes before Joel takes the stage in Sunrise, Florida. "He does classic music and he's a great performer."
Licht, who moved from Brooklyn to Boca Raton, Florida, in 1996, and his wife, Darci, were happy about another tour because it gave them a chance to pass their love of Joel's music onto their kids, Brittany, 12, and Mitchell, 10, who asked to come to the tour opener in Sunrise, Florida with their folks.
Mitchell proudly says he has learned all the words to "We Didn't Start The Fire" and hopes to test his memory during the concert. "They've been listening to him for years on the radio and at home," Licht explains.
The Lichts are not alone.
In fact, so many fans are clamoring to see Joel that his tour is expected to break Bruce Springsteen's record of 10 sold-out nights at Madison Square Garden. Tickets for an 11th Joel show on April 19th, 2006 at the Garden were scheduled to go on sale Saturday.
Thriving Without Elton
"There isn't any way to explain that kind of popularity," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of concert industry trade publication Pollstar.
Being able to sell out so many concerts in New York proves there is a pent-up demand to see Joel as a solo headliner, Bongiovanni says. "He certainly couldn't do that many shows in many other cities," he says. "But in New York, not having Elton John on the tour has not made that huge of a difference. His true fans are excited about an evening with just him."
Jay Marciano, president of Radio City Entertainment, which operates and books Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, says the incredible demand for Joel even amazed him, and breaking Springsteen's record wasn't even discussed until after Joel's fifth and sixth shows sold out quickly.
To satisfy the demand, the Garden needed to work around its other, already scheduled events - Knicks and Rangers games and the Ringling Brothers Circus. "Billy is basically the fourth professional sports team in the city," Marciano says.
No Competition With The Boss
For Joel, breaking the record at the Garden is exciting because of the prestige of the venue, but he doesn't see himself in competition with Springsteen.
"Just because Hank Aaron hit more home runs doesn't make Babe Ruth a wimp," Joel says. "What thrills me about this is that with every show we add, we knock the wind out of the scalpers' sales. Ticket agencies have to lower their prices."
In this age where $250 tickets have become a norm on A-list tours, Joel has kept the top ticket price at $89.50. His scheduling of shows at the Garden is based on wanting to give his fans a chance to see him rather than raking in the cash.
"He's definitely not maximizing earnings because he's not doing consecutive nights," says Pollstar's Bongiovanni. "He has to tear down and move out and set up again and doing that in New York, in the Garden especially, is expensive. If he was looking just for money, he could do five nights at double the price and move to the next city."
Joel says this outing is more of a dress rehearsal than a tour because it is so limited. He calls it a test to see what he will do next in his career. "I'm just kind of going back into the water on my own again," he says. "I'm seeing how I feel physically and emotionally and I have to make a decision on if I want to do this. We're doing a lot of album tracks and songs we haven't done and that's what makes this fun. But if I find that by the end of this thing audiences really aren't responding to it, I don't know what I'm going to do. If there is a response from the audience for the more obscure things then that will make it more interesting because we have a pretty rich catalog of stuff that wasn't hits. Actually, those are the songs I like better."
Respecting His Genius
If fans react like longtime Joel fan Tiffany Gavin of Stony Brook, New York, Joel will continue tours like this for years to come. "Every song of his, I absolutely love," says Gavin, who plans to attend five of Joel's Garden shows. "I don't care if most of the people don't know these songs. They're not getting paid to sing - Billy is. They should just sit there and respect the genius."
For Gavin, Joel's performance of his lesser-known songs is a dream come true. "All I want is for him to say, 'Tiffany, 'Vienna' is for you,'" she says.
Even though Joel is unsure of his future, he says he would never call any tour - especially not this one - a farewell. "There's just too many gravestones that say, 'This is my final tour,' where there's a big hole in the ground because someone has climbed out," he says. "Life is too quirky to be that final about things. Everyone always feels burned out at the end of a tour. Right now, I'm really enjoying playing."
Unheard, For "The Longest Time"
Billy Joel has nearly 60 songs from his catalogue rehearsed and ready to perform on this tour. He has them broken down into categories such as Top 10 Hits, Top 40 Hits, Classic Rock Radio Hits, and Deep Album Cuts and plans to play a bunch of each during his upcoming shows, rotating different songs into the set-list for each show. Here are some of the rarer songs likely to make it in at some point:
"Everybody Loves You Now" from "Cold Spring Harbor" (Columbia, 1971): A rollicking, piano-driven rocker from his debut.
"The Ballad of Billy The Kid" from "Piano Man" (Columbia, 1973): The tale of Billy The Kid told in a mix of Western imagery and an Elton John-styled grandeur.
"Sleeping With The Television On" from "Glass Houses" (Columbia, 1980): An upbeat, new-wave rocker, complete with bouncy delivery and a synthesizer solo.
"Stiletto" from "52nd Street" (Columbia, 1980): A sly, groove-heavy kiss-off awash in the intrigue of a Broadway musical.
"Zanzibar" from "52nd Street": An underappreciated album cut that conjures up smoky jazz lounges and baseball analogies. Be sure to check out the hot trumpet solo.
"Laura" from "The Nylon Curtain" (Columbia, 1982): An edgy, Beatlesque rocker that would make Paul McCartney proud.
"Where's The Orchestra?" from "The Nylon Curtain": A gorgeous ballad told in theatrical terms.
"The Night Is Still Young" from "Billy Joel: Greatest Hits, Volume 1 & Volume 2" (Columbia, 1985): Low-key verses and a grand, simple chorus that build to a lovely climax.
"The Great Wall of China" from "River of Dreams" (Columbia, 1993): Broad, strutting rocker packed with grand harmonies.
"Famous Last Words" from "River of Dreams": A largely undiscovered gem that has been (and could remain) a worthy period to his pop recording career.
"People In The News: High and Dry Joel Sets A Record"
By: JD Marshall
(January 21st, 2006)
The "Piano Man" will be pounding the ivories Monday, but not pounding the vino.
That's the assurance that the now-dry Billy Joel has provided to the Daily News of New York on the eve of his record-setting 11 sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden (beating the monster 10 sell-outs of none other than the Boss, Bruce Springsteen). A stint at Betty Ford last year led to Joel's new drydom (a 2002 rehab took only for a time).
Just don't ask the hard-livin' 56 year-old to become a reformed mouthpiece for the wonders of the sober life. He's been there before, done that, then stumbled back under the influence of the grape.
"Now people ask me about sobriety," Joel says, "and I am like, 'God, don't make me the poster boy for AA. I don't know about total sobriety - I know a hell of a lot about drinking. Ultimately, I am surprised that people made just 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 Set For Madison Square Garden Record"
(January 21st, 2006)
Rocker Billy Joel is set to smash records in New York City after selling-out an 10-night stint at Madison Square Garden.
Tickets for the "Piano Man" singer's record-setting 11th show at the world-famous venue go on sale today (January 21st, 2006) and if they sell-out, as expected, he'll consider adding a 12th night.
Joel's longtime agent Dennis Arfa says, "We'll see what the demand is. Today will tell us how far we can go."
If Joel's 11th Madison Square Garden show is a sell-out, he'll break Bruce Springsteen's 10-show record, set in 2000.
"Joel: I'm Not The Poster Boy For AA"
(January 21st, 2006)
Singing star Billy Joel is thrilled he has won his battle against booze after a stint in rehab last year (2005) - but he refuses to be an anti-alcohol role model.
The New Yorker is fed up of being seen as an moral advisor since drying out, as he is still keen to maintain his "rock and roll" persona.
He tells The New York Daily News, "There was a time in my life when I was drinking too much, and so I have stopped. It's an interesting concept. 'Just don't drink.' Hmm! I never thought of that!"
"Now, people ask me about sobriety, and I am like, God! Don't make me the poster boy for AA. I don't really know about total sobriety - I know a hell of a lot about drinking."
"Ultimately, I am surprised that people made just 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."
"Billy's Big Record"
By: Dan Aquilante
(January 22nd, 2006)
An hour into a conversation with Billy Joel, the pop-star who has lately been as famous for bad driving as big hits suddenly brightened - as if he had an epiphany.
Maybe it was relaxing in the warm sun, dockside at a Miami Beach bungalow, or his recent newlywed status. But something inspired Joel - an artist better known for being tortured by regret, smothered by fame and driven to recapture past glories - to suddenly say, "Contentment is really underrated because it sounds like you're settling. But it's given short shrift, and it shouldn't be. Contentment is appreciating that everything is OK."
How's that for a change? Billy Joel comfortable in his own skin.
The 56 year-old icon of everyman pop spoke easily about not making a pop record in more than a decade (and not wanting to), about his membership in the "Worst Celebrity Drivers' Club" and about whether he wants to stop drinking.
And despite admitting "I was a better singer 20 years ago," tomorrow night the "Piano Man" embarks on what will likely be a record-setting, 11-night string of sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden, eclipsing the 10-show mark set by Bruce Springsteen.
New York Post: Did you set out to beat Springsteen's Garden record with these shows?
Billy Joel: No, I wasn't out to kick anybody's butt - it's not a competition, and I don't work that way. The reason we're doing all these shows is to defeat the scalpers. The more shows we add, the more steam we take out of their ticket prices.
New York Post: With 11 shows, your hard-core fans will probably see you multiple times. Will your set-list change?
Billy Joel: We're going to rotate the set from night to night. We've been working on lots of songs we haven't done in a long time - lots of album cuts. This show is as much for the audiences as for us.
New York Post: You could do probably do "Piano Man" in your sleep. But do the rarities challenge you?
Billy Joel: Oh, yeah. We spent a lot of time at rehearsals relearning songs I haven't done since the '70s. Like "Everybody Loves You Now" from "Cold Spring Harbor."
New York Post: Do you have the same affection for obscure song as you do for big hits?
Billy Joel: I always like the songs that weren't hits. They're like my kids who didn't grow up to become doctors and lawyers. These are the songs that need more attention, more love.
New York Post: Wealthy, semi-retired rock star. Is that an accurate description of you?
Billy Joel: Yeah. The other day I was wondering where I was at in my life. I'm filthy and I'm rich, but I'm not filthy rich. (Laughs) Am I retired? Not really, playing all these concerts. But I never said I wasn't going to play - I said I wouldn't do long tours. And I never said I was going to retire. I stopped writing pop music and rock and roll back in '93, after the "River of Dreams" album.
New York Post: Why did you stop?
Billy Joel: I felt like I had my say. I've had more say than most people. I wanted to do new things to keep my own interests going.
New York Post: Like your classical album, "Fantasies & Delusions?"
Billy Joel: That was a labor of love. I never expected anything except my own personal gratification. That's why I called it "Fantasies & Delusions."
New York Post: Sorry it didn't work out.
Billy Joel: I'm not bitching. This is the best job I ever had. I recommend it for everybody. But my intention was always to be a composer. Being a rock star was pure serendipity.
New York Post: So you never took the rock-star stuff too seriously?
Billy Joel: I look in the mirror and think I don't look like a rock star. I talked about this with Bono, and we looked at each other and decided we look like a pair of bricklayers.
New York Post: A lot of people say you walked away at the top of your game.
Billy Joel: Honestly, I thought I was better live, 20 years ago. I looked the part then. I had a lot more hair, I was skinnier, and I was able to hang upside down from speaker cables. I was able to do a lot of crazy stuff I can't do now. I was more of a fireball performer.
New York Post: Could you do another pop album?
Billy Joel: Sure, but it would be dishonest. Why would I do it if I really didn't want to? For money? Because I might have another hit? Those aren't good reasons. I need love and passion to motivate me.
New York Post: What did you learn about your music when it was adapted for the Broadway show "Movin' Out"?
Billy Joel: That my music was danceable. For a long time I thought my material was static. There is a lot of counterpoint in my music, there's lots of syncopation, half time, double time. All that isn't obvious, but [choreographer] Twyla [Tharp] picked up on all that.
New York Post: Did you think that concept could work?
Billy Joel: Its success shocked the hell out of me. What appealed to me was its potential as a major catastrophe. I liked that risk.
New York Post: You risked marriage for the third time a few months ago with Kate Lee. How's that working?
Billy Joel: Life is great. I'm really happily married, and she's a wonderful girl. She just got a gig hosting a Bravo TV show called "Top Chef" that airs in March. I'm proud for her and we're really happy.
New York Post: Is part of that happiness being sober?
Billy Joel: I'm not going on a soapbox about it. I don't know much about sobriety, but I do know a lot about drinking.
New York Post: Are you an alcoholic, or did you just like to drink?
Billy Joel: I didn't know, but at this point I'd say I am an alcoholic. But I'm not sure about what anybody tells me, especially after the way they brainwash you in rehab.
New York Post: It seems like you're always in rehab.
Billy Joel: I've only been in rehab once - last year, it was a 30-day program. I tried to go a few years ago, but the press found out about it and there were reporters all over the grounds. They couldn't do any of their programs with their other clients. I had to leave because we couldn't get anything done.
New York Post: Are you happy you went last year?
Billy Joel: Yeah, I needed a cold splash of water in the face. The basic premise of rehab is: Don't drink.
New York Post: Before rehab, did you ever quit for a week or two to see if you could?
Billy Joel: The concept "don't drink" never occurred to me.
New York Post: Now that you don't drink anymore, are you driving or driven?
Billy Joel: None of my car accidents were drinking-related.
New York Post: I didn't say they were.
Billy Joel: I'm not the only person in the world who's had accidents. They were just bad luck. The first one I was avoiding hitting a deer, the second one was an icy road, and the third happened on a rainy road - I skidded and tapped a guy's house. Before that, I never had accidents.
New York Post: Not that it would be an accident, but would you ever have more kids?
Oh sure, why not. Picasso was popping 'em out in his 80s.
Who Knew? Joel Gems
Billy Joel's driving record was almost spotless until his flurry of auto accidents. "Back in '82, I didn't crack up my motorcycle - a car ran into me. Any motorcyclist will tell you the same thing: They didn't have an accident, they were given one. The guy ran a red light and hit me." Joel sustained serious injuries to both hands, delaying recording of his album "The Nylon Curtain" for two months.
The title of Joel's last rock album, 1993's "River of Dreams," was an acknowledgment of his songwriting process. Back in the early '80s Joel told music journalist Joe Smith, "I think I've dreamed all the songs I've written. I don't dream regular dreams. I dream stories. I dream in abstractions. I've awakened at 4:30 in the morning with a whole symphony in my head."
While Joel is an icon in pop and rock, his classical album "Fantasies & Delusions" was less than successful. In the world of symphonic music, Alexander Joel - famed Austrian classical conductor and Billy's half-brother - is better known.
Joel doesn't just make music. The Long Island native has always had a passion for boating and has developed a successful business building 38-foot runabouts. "So far [the Long Island Boat Company] has sold 40 boats," Joel says. "When we started, I never imagined having this kind of production run, because it's a mom-and-pop business."
"Billy Joel To Be A Dad Again"
(January 22nd, 2006)
Singer/songwriter Billy Joel and his young wife Kate Lee are planning to start a family.
The "River of Dreams" hitmaker is already a father to 20 year-old Alexa Ray Joel, from his marriage to model Christie Brinkley, but he wants more children with TV chef Lee, 24.
He tells The New York Daily News, "One kid would be lonely, wouldn't it?"
"I would be as good a father as I was to Alexa, maybe even better because I'll be home a lot more."
"I would kind of like to be a house dad, actually."
"No Need To Worry For Him, 'Cause He's All Right"
By: Glenn Gamboa
(January 23rd, 2006)
With Billy Joel set to begin his record-breaking run of 11 sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden tonight, he is also ready to stop being tabloid fodder, putting rehab and those much-publicized Long Island car accidents behind him.
"I wasn't doing anything else they could see, so people thought, 'This is what he's doing now - crashing cars and going to rehab,'" Joel joked recently, calling from a tour stop in Miami Beach. "Look, I had a run of bad luck. None of the accidents had anybody get hurt. There were no other passengers, no other vehicles. I walked away. They weren't alcohol-related. I had a run of bad luck.
"In the two years I had my three accidents, I had all the car accidents I've ever had in my whole life," he continued. "Other people have had accidents, just not in a two-year period."
Joel's string of bad-luck accidents began in 2002 in Sag Harbor, New York. "I avoided hitting a deer in the first accident," he explained. "The second accident it was an icy road and I slid into a tree. And the third accident, I was driving my dopey 1967 Citroën. It's made out of papier mache, this car. It was a rain-slicked road. I hit the brake and this car kind of just slid off the road and bumped into the house and made a crack in the stone. But because it was me, it was big news."
Joel said his life is much more settled these days, in part because of his marriage to Katie Lee in October 2004. "Our life is all really solid and really good," he said, adding that his wife has been joining him on the road on the current tour when she can get breaks away from her new "Top Chef" show on Bravo.
His stint in rehab last year has also helped him, though he isn't interested in pushing it on other people. "I tell people, 'Don't try to make me the poster boy for AA,'" he said. "I don't really know a whole lot about sobriety. I'm an expert on drinking."
Joel said he is happy to be on tour - his first as a solo headliner since 1999 - so he can be known for something positive again.
"In the past two years, I've been in the tabloids; I don't want to be in them again," he said. "I've lived an entire life, not just the sordid details."
"He's Got A Way of Pleasin'"
Joel Focuses On His Hits In First Night at Garden
By: Glenn Gamboa
(January 24th, 2006)
With a new sense of urgency and a crafty bit of pacing, Billy Joel has built a new tour that should make him the envy of veteran touring artists everywhere.
He has managed to give his fans something different without giving them anything new.
Though it has been nearly 13 years since Joel released a new pop song, he has rediscovered some of his older material and has been playing it with a renewed fervor.
And at last night's show at Madison Square Garden, the first of a record-breaking 11 nights, a sold-out run that now stretches into April, Joel showed he has gotten the mix just right.
It's a balancing act that all veteran artists face. With so many hits and so many memorable songs, they all can't possibly fit in one set. Never mind that some of those songs have grown tired or others make you sick - fans want to hear them.
Joel says the current tour, his first as a solo headliner in nearly seven years, is a test run of sorts, a way to gauge fan interest in a concert that features lesser-known songs that he and his band enjoy playing, instead of featuring only his greatest hits.
Judging from crowd reaction, his new set is going to pass the test. The rarities in the list continue to get better, especially the pairing of the sly, funky "Stiletto" and the jazzy "Zanzibar." The combination of the strutting rocker "The Great Wall of China" and the new-wavish "All For Leyna" worked as well.
Joel says he is trying to balance his love of the rarities with his desire to please the bulk of his fans and to create a good concert experience.
Unlike the opening night of his tour in Sunrise, Florida, earlier this month, Joel's concert last night had a better pace, mixing the familiar with the rare, the upbeat with the ballads.
This time out, you were never too far from a hit - two songs at the most. And once you passed the midway point, it was nothing but classics, from "Keeping The Faith" through "Piano Man," once again the final encore.
Among Joel's tributes to the Hudson River Line, Oyster Bay bartenders, and women and ex-managers who have wronged him, he covered "In The Midnight Hour," a tribute to the great Wilson Pickett, who died of a heart attack on Thursday.
"I grew up singing his songs and I loved his music," Joel said to the crowd at the sold-out Garden. "I wanted to do something to honor him."
Throughout his 2-hour, 30-minute set, Joel was energized, traveling around the circular stage, stopping at various keyboard stations on the perimeter when he didn't play the baby grand at center stage.
He even did a bit of dancing as he tackled "An Innocent Man," in fine voice as he went from his lowest register into a falsetto.
His band, led by new drummer Chuck Burgi, multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero, guitarist Tommy Byrnes, bassist Andy Cichon, and saxophonists Mark Rivera and Richie Cannata, helped Joel bring new touches to his older songs. "Goodnight Saigon" is now more understated and acoustic, "The River of Dreams" a bit more upbeat.
But mainly it's Joel's demeanor that makes the show work. With his explanations of songs and self-deprecating stories, he makes his lesser-known material come to life.
And with this tour, that new life may last for quite some time.
"Sing Us A Song, & Do It Just Like Before"
By: Jim Farber
(January 24th, 2006)
He hasn't put out an album of new pop songs in more than 12 years. And he swears he'll never record one again. But for the crowd that packed Madison Square Garden for Billy Joel's opening show last night, all that probably counted as a plus.
That's not only because fans tend to come for songs they know. It's because Joel built much of his career on lyrics that stoke nostalgia and comfort to begin with. If Joel has always saddled those lyrics with somany cliches and routine observations it hurts, his melodies achieve a bliss that can't help but make you hum along.
No doubt, the singability of Joel's songs - welded to his every-schmo lyrics and persona - are what have just helped him sell out more shows in a single run at the Garden than any star in history. Beating Springsteen's record of 10, Joel will play no fewer than 11 concerts at the Garden over the next three months, as part of his first solo tour in eight years.
He made just one reference to this triumph. Joel thanked fans for "buying all the tickets," while hoping they didn't get any from "those bastard" scalpers.
Joel's patter maintained that mix of affability and attitude. Physically, he may not have strutted like before: A revolving stage helped the piano move so he didn't have to. But he made up for it through the chunky muscularity of his playing. And, at 56, his voice sounded supple.
Though Joel could have played all hits in this 2-and-a-half-hour show, he broke them up with obscurities, like 1972's "Everybody Loves You Now," and also-rans, like "Stiletto."
Joel kept stressing the age of the songs, reeling off the year each was released, the better to prove their durability. But it's the fluidity of the tunes that commanded respect.
The range of genres he straddled also bears mention. Joel went from soul ("An Innocent Man") to saloon songs ("New York State of Mind") to Steely Dan-style jazz ("Zanzibar").
As usual, Joel's sentimentality could, at times, lapse into the maudlin, as in the self-glorifying "Goodnight Saigon." And in listening to these 26 numbers, one couldn't fail to miss his drawback as a lyricist. While Joel centers on a fascinating subject - ordinary people in everyday situations - he often blandly exploits their experiences rather than elevating them with insight. Writers like Springsteen dazzle by doing just the opposite.
No matter how far the content of his music lags behind its form, however, last night's show made one thing clear about Joel's legacy: He has tunes to burn.
"Singer's Tie To Syracuse University Leads To 'Billy Joel University'"
By: Mallory Rubin
(January 24th, 2006)
For the vast majority of people walking this earth, and the grounds of this university, brilliant ideas do not strike everyday. Which is why, when sophomore television radio and film and marketing major David Shapiro was struck by just such an idea at lunch on Thursday, I was inspired to write this column and share it with you all.
Shapiro was glancing at a copy of The Daily Orange that happened to be on our table when the story announcing that Billy Joel would be the commencement speaker for the 2006 graduating class caught his eye.
Shapiro then recalled the $320,000 Joel gave to Syracuse University's College of Visual and Performing Arts in September, which the school will use to create Billy Joel Fellowships in music composition, according to The Daily Orange.
When he likewise remembered that Joel will be giving a concert at the Carrier Dome on March 25th, 2006 as a part of the Dome's 25th anniversary celebration, Shapiro proclaimed, in a moment of clarity, "We should rename this place Billy Joel University."
The brilliant idea came a moment later, however, when Shapiro coupled this sentiment with a way of solving our mascot woes by saying, "We should at least be called the Syracuse Billy Joels."
Once I regained my composure, I realized that Shapiro was actually on to something. The Syracuse Orange is, after all, lacking a certain luster that mascots that aren't, say, fruits or colors, have.
And so the brainstorming began. My contribution, which I believe was the best of all proposals, was that we be called the Syracuse Piano Men, in homage to Joel's outrageously popular song of the same name. The mascot could be a single ivory key. Or, to prevent any issues over political correctness, there could be two mascots, a male and female key.
"At Garden, Billy Joel Is Out To Prove He's In Control"
By: Laura Sinagra
(January 24th, 2006)
"A bottle of red, a bottle of white/Perhaps a bottle of ginger ale tonight," Billy Joel sang at the first of his 11 sold-out Madison Square garden shows Monday night, turning a line from his hit "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" into a salvo of hard-won rehabilitation. Mr. Joel was out to prove he's in control. It was a wise move; his 2002 Garden performance with Elton John found him almost incoherent, lurching around while sporadically yelling out names of World War II battles. He has been in and out of the tabloids ever since.
During an almost 40-year career characterized by huge sales and not much critical adulation, Mr. Joel has made avid attempts to self-mythologize, routinely writing songs about the kind of man he is: a moody tough ("Prelude/Angry Young Man"); a beleaguered lover ("An Innocent Man"); and, of course, a beloved tavern shaman ("Piano Man"). As a stage character, he has never embodied the warmth of his best melodies. But his likable recent retrospective boxed set, "My Lives," suggested that smugness might be giving way to a more humble sense of fun. The inclusion of callow youthful runs at folk-rock, shaggy outtakes, and covers of songs by his heroes revealed a gutsy self-deprecation.
On Monday night, looking stocky but healthy in jeans and a black blazer, Mr. Joel was in limber voice. But in front of this crowd, he wisely hammered out the standards that made him the Bruce Springsteen of Long Island. His only nod to "My Lives" was to emphasize his longevity by prefacing songs with the albums on which they appeared and the years of their release. The deep cuts came early, and were limited to second and third tier album tracks like the bombastic throwaway "The Ballad of Billy The Kid," and the Steely Dan vamp "Zanzibar."
Played just as the crowd's $7.50-a-cup champagne buzz was kicking in, the tour-guide ballad "New York State of Mind" garnered expected results: On the downbeat after the chorus' proud resolution, as Mr. Joel pumped ascending piano chords and the sax howled, the crowd bellowed its devotion.
During the two-and-a-half hour set, Mr. Joel led his sometimes blaring band through 26 songs. His piano work was bolstered by a keyboard player who took over when, during the recriminating stomper "Big Shot," or "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," Mr. Joel took the center mic. A surprisingly agile "We Didn't Start The Fire," was animated by a bright, pleasing synth tone that recalled bouncing '80s dance-pop. This much-maligned song, with its jumbled litany of historical touchstones may have finally graduated to relevance as a kind of unwitting comment on Google-age information overload, even if it's faded as a baby-boomer exoneration.
An inexplicably cheery take on the working-class anthem "Allentown" leeched the empathy from one of Mr. Joel's best tunes. On a news day dominated by devastating layoffs at Ford, the breezy rendition seemed slightly callous, or at least implied that Mr. Joel, a legendary history buff, hadn't been watching CNN in the Garden greenroom. Conversely, "Goodnight Saigon," found Mr. Joel, starkly silhouetted on the jumbotron, conjuring honest gravitas, bolstered by the requisite crew of singing veterans.
Mr. Joel might have closed with "Just The Way You Are" as a show of gratitude to fans who are making this a record-setting run of sold-out nights. But in deference to routine, he wrapped up the concert with "Piano Man," letting the crowd handle the chorus, which doubles as a plea for him to "sing us a song tonight." If it strikes anyone as grandiose, well, that's just the way he is.
"Familiarity Breeds Fans"
By: Stephen Williams
(January 24th, 2006)
Billy Joel may be dredging up songs from the attic to perform during his stint at Madison Square Garden, but his loyal fans are singing the same old tune.
"I am so-o-o-o excited!" chimed Emi Omura, a first-time Billy concert-goer, as she waited to enter Tower D at the Garden. Omura and her three girlfriends at the show - all students at New York University - said Joel was much in style in Japan while they were growing up.
"He's older than we expected," said Erika Hayashi, giggling, "but I think his voice remains the same."
A somewhat younger attendee who did not grow up in Japan, 11 year-old Binny Zupnick, of West Hempstead, New York, was there with mom, Shira, and big brother Chanan, 15.
"I don't know," he said when asked why he liked Joel. Then, he said, "'Piano Man.'" Turns out Binny is a concert veteran. "I saw the Eagles," he said.
Tickets for the opening show of Joel's 11-night stand were a Christmas gift to Paula Bienia from her husband, Dave; Paula gave Dave Joel's just-released boxed set compilation, "My Lives."
"I saw him first when I was in college, at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, 1973 or 1974," said Paula, referring to Joel, not Dave. "He opened for the Beach Boys. He still has it." Her husband sort of smiled, as though he'd be pleasantly surprised if in an hour or so, the Beach Boys instead of Billy Joel were to come out on stage to entertain the Fort Salonga, New York couple. About a half-hour before show time at 8, two atypical ladies in this rock and roll crowd - dressed elegantly, nicely coiffed, of indeterminant age - walked toward the lobby from Seventh Avenue, looking slightly dazed. One of them, a blond named Bobbi, held up two tickets.
"We're trying to sell these," she said. "We're tired, It's been a long day. How do I sell these? What time is this show over?"
"Piano Man Rocks The Garden"
(January 24th, 2006)
When it's all over, he'll have set a Garden record, Billy Joel played the first of 11 sold-out gigs at Madison Square Garden Monday night.
The previous record holder of sell-outs at the Garden was Bruce Springsteen, who played 10 straight shows in 2000.
This is Billy Joel's first solo tour in almost 7 years. Although he's not playing any new songs, he says he'll bring back some that haven't been played live in a while.
"He's Still Angry: Billy Joel May Be Older, But He's Not Mellow"
By: Jay Lustig
(January 25th, 2006)
It has been a long time since Billy Joel was a young punk, but he opened his Monday night concert at Madison Square Garden with "Prelude/Angry Young Man." The song, 30 years-old, is mainly a portrait of its title character, who lives "with his foot in his mouth and his heart in his hand."
But at one point, Joel jumps to an older, perhaps wiser point of view. "I believe I've passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage/I found that just surviving was a noble fight," he sings.
The 56 year-old Long Island native arrived at the Garden - for the first of the 11 shows he will present there, through April - as an icon, not an upstart. After being a constant presence on the pop charts from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, he has essentially taken himself out of the pop sweepstakes. He hasn't released a collection of new songs since 1993's "River of Dreams"; his last album, 2005's "My Lives," was a boxed set dominated by old demos, live tracks, studio outtakes, and other rarities.
His mission on Monday was to turn the rock star's version of "just surviving" - playing past hits and vintage album tracks - into a noble fight. He succeeded only occasionally in the show's first half, but was in top form during the second half, leading his sharp band through driving versions of songs like "I Go To Extremes," "You May Be Right," "Only The Good Die Young," and the epic "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant."
Several of his Top 10 hits ("Tell Her About It," "A Matter of Trust," "Uptown Girl," "Just The Way You Are") were left off the set-list. But you hardly noticed, since he played so many other ultra-familiar tunes.
"Prelude/Angry Young Man," featuring some of Joel's most muscular piano playing, made for a fine opener. Other early highlights included the 1973 fantasy "The Ballad of Billy The Kid" ("I wanted to write a Western movie soundtrack, but nobody was offering me any movies at that time," said Joel) and "All For Leyna," a song from his 1980 "Glass Houses" album that is just as catchy, and not as overplayed, as his major hits from that era.
But something was missing from songs like "Allentown," "Stiletto," "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," and "The Great Wall of China." They weren't poorly played. They just seemed a little routine, and lacking in the emotional commitment needed to make them work in such a large setting. And "Zanzibar," an attempt at jazz-rock fusion, seemed like second-hand Steely Dan.
The turning point happened to be the 13th of the concert's 26 songs: a relaxed, deeply soulful version of "An Innocent Man." Standing at center stage, without a keyboard in front of him, Joel snapped his fingers theatrically and, endearingly, played air piano.
Joel honored Wilson Pickett, who died last week, with a fiery take of one of Pickett's signature songs, "In The Midnight Hour." He brought convincing tenderness to the ballad "She's Always A Woman" (with saxophonists Richie Cannata and Mark Rivera playing flutes), and playfully tried out some Elvis-like phrasing on "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me."
Throughout the show, Joel spoke briefly about the songs, offering at least a small amount of context. He mentioned, for instance, that he wrote the valentine-like "New York State of Mind" while living in California. Regarding "Stiletto," which portrays a woman as a heartless predator, he said, "I know this song has been referred to as politically incorrect, but I don't give a shit, because this is how it was."
Having undergone some well-publicized bouts with alcohol addiction but now reportedly sober, Joel changed one of the wine references to ginger ale in "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant."
He lambasted ticket scalpers early in the show, saying "I hate those bastards." And after the show's last number - a feel-good sing-along on his first major hit, "Piano Man" - he offered a final thought that suggested, like the scalpers line, that he still may have a bit of a chip on his shoulder: "Don't take any shit from anybody."
"Nation's Capitol To Get Another Visit From Billy Joel"
By: Jon Zahlaway
(January 25th, 2006)
Billy Joel, who is now in the midst of his first major solo tour since the late '90s, continues to dole out dates for the run, the latest of which is set in Washington, DC.
Set for April 14th,
2006, the show is the second scheduled visit to Washington, DC on Joel's
current outing; the first takes place March 16th, 2006. Tickets for
the new show will hit the box office Saturday (January 28th, 2006),
according to organizers.
Last week, Joel knocked off the first of three planned Boston, Massachusetts concerts. He also has four shows lined up in Hartford, CT, and five shows in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the fifth of which is set for March 30th, 2006 and, according to tour promoter Live Nation, will be his final engagement in the City of Brotherly Love during this tour.
Joel's outing in part supports "My Lives," a box set that Columbia Records issued last November. The four-disc collection chronicles Joel's career "from his early '60s Long Island bar bands through his biggest hits to his most recent classical compositions," according to a press release. The set includes demos, live cuts, alternate takes, covers and more.
"Joel Entertains at Second Show"
By: Rafer Guzmán
(January 27th, 2006)
During the second of his eleven-date run at Madison Square Garden last night, Billy Joel didn't just repeat his previous show. The veteran performer juggled his repertoire a bit, avoided a couple of hits (no "Uptown Girl," no "The Longest Time") and frequently stepped out from behind his piano to entertain the crowd.
Among the show's more memorable moments:
Gutsiest Song Choice: The 56 year-old rocker opened with "Prelude/Angry Young Man."
Funniest Patter: Speaking to the rows behind him, Joel tried to joke about his baldness but instead made a double entendre: "I know you're getting the back of my head. These days, there's a lot more head to get... I didn't mean it that way."
Hometown Shout-Out: On "New York State of Mind," which nods to two famous Manhattan newspapers, Joel changed the lyrics: "The New York Post/Newsday, too."
Tribute Time: "Zanzibar" walked a fine line between saluting Steely Dan and simply stealing from the group. Joel even sang through his nose a la Donald Fagen and played a cascading piano solo straight out of "Aja."
Who Needs Hands?: Near the end of "I Go To Extremes," Joel played a rumbling glissando down the keyboard - with his rump.
Best Moves: During "Big Shot," the singer donned a ball cap thrown on stage and delivered his lines almost like a rapper, striking B-boy poses and making broad arm gestures. He also performed several fancy tricks with his mic stand that would make a baton-twirler jealous.
"Idol" Moment: At the end of "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me," Joel thrust the mic randomly into the audience and let one lucky guy sing the last line. Unfortunately, he made William Hung sound like Tony Bennett.
Poignant Ending: As the final song, "Piano Man," drew to a close, the crowd sang the loudest it had all night: "'Cause he knows that it's me they've been coming to see/To forget about life for a while."
"Joel Goes To Extremes at Garden"
(January 28th, 2006)
He's "Keeping The Faith" - again.
A 12th Billy Joel show has been added at Madison Square Garden for April 24th, 2006, which - the record books will attest - shows he's truly a "Big Shot." Reports from the first two Garden concerts paint Joel as a playful showman, working to get the right mix of favorites and rarities, rockers, and ballads. The first 11 shows sold-out.
"Billy Joel Plants Record Run at The Garden"
By: Ray Waddell
(January 29th, 2006)
Billy Joel has returned to the concert stage in explosive fashion, highlighted by a historic run at New York's famed Madison Square Garden.
As of January 21st, 2006, Joel had sold-out 11 Garden shows, breaking the record of 10 set by Bruce Springsteen in 2000. Joel's run of shows began January 23rd, 2006 and now it seems the "Piano Man" will add a 12th show to the stand.
Artists Group International president Dennis Arfa has been Joel's agent for 30 years and knew demand would be high for the artist's first solo tour since 1998. But this high?
"We're always cautious when we begin and we're humbled by our success," Arfa says. "You never think about breaking Babe Ruth's home run record until you get to that point where it's within reach, then all of a sudden you say, 'Wow, we're Hank Aaron here."'
Joel's tour will have an in-the-round stage setting. With a 19,000 capacity in the Garden, the total attendance for 11 shows will be about 209,000 and the total gross could be north of $17 million.
Ticket prices for the New York shows top out at $89.50. "We're trying to make it affordable for the guy who works in the plant," Arfa says, "not just the guy who owns it."
This is not a first for Joel box-office heroics in New York. "Billy in New York is always special," Arfa says of Joel, who grew up in and has lived most of his life in suburban Long Island. "He played nine Nassau (Long Island) Coliseum shows in 1998. We've done two Yankee Stadiums and two Giant Stadiums on the same tour."
Joel first contacted Arfa last summer about returning to the road. "He said, 'Let's put something together and devise a game plan,"' Arfa says. "We knew we wanted to play in the winter months, and in New York and some of the cities he hadn't played since 1998. We knew (we would play) the Northeast, Florida, and some dates in the West."
The tour began January 7th, 2006 in Sunrise, Florida, and is selling-out everywhere, including five shows in Philadelphia, three in Boston and four in Hartford, Connecticut. "Who does four Hartfords?" Arfa asks.
Joel has also booked a March 25th, 2006 date at the 50,000-seat Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY, which has not hosted a concert since Joel played there with Elton John in 2001. Tickets for the Joel date are $39.50, the same price as when he last played solo there in 1998. A 40,000-ticket sell-out is Joel's sixth in the building, breaking a tie with the Rolling Stones for most in Carrier Dome history.
Joel's last solo tour grossed $47 million from 64 shows that drew 1.1 million people, according to Billboard Boxscore. Since then, Joel's tours with John have made them the most lucrative co-headlining duo of all time. John and Joel last toured together in 2003, grossing $46 million from just 24 dates.
Despite the consistently high numbers, Arfa muses, "The industry always seems surprised at Billy's success, and I'm surprised when they're surprised...Billy's one of those great icons, up there with Springsteen, Buffett, U2, Rolling Stones, Elton John. There's a group and he's one of them."
The tour wraps April 14th, 2006 in Washington, DC. Asked if there will be more dates to come, Arfa replies, "We're talking about it. Certainly, Billy is having a good time."
By: Richard Johnson
(January 31st, 2006)
Billy Joel has added a West Village home to his huge real estate portfolio. The Post's Braden Keil reports that Joel, who already has places in the Hamptons, Centre Island, TriBeCa, and Miami Beach, just closed on a sprawling townhouse on Perry Street for $5.9 million. The three-story brick residence features a double-size living room, a full-floor bedroom suite, and a lap pool out back. The seller was sculptor/Band-Aid heir Seward Johnson, who first listed the mansion for $6.7 million. Joel and his young bride, Katie Lee, are selling their TriBeCa loft for $5 million, about $1 million more than they paid last year.