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Review: Billy Joel performs classics with holiday songs at The Garden (Includes first-hand account)

Joel kicked off his set with “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” where the stage was graced in green lights, which was met with a raucous response. Lead guitarist Tommy Byrnes switched over to acoustic guitar for “The Entertainer,” for a neat rendition. “Thank you very much,” Joel said. “Good evening New York City. It’s a great time of year to be in New York City.”

After a verse of “The First Noel,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer joked that this is not “The First Joel” here at the Garden. “We got snow for half hour,” he added. He immediately broke into “Prelude/Angry Young Man,” which went on to garner him and his band a standing ovation. He took his fans on a trip down memory lane to The Nylon Curtain album in 1982 with “She’s Right On Time,” which featured Mike DelGuidice, Tommy Byrnes and Andrew Cichon on backing vocals.

“Jingle Bells” was incorporated with a medley of the upbeat “My Life,” as everybody was clapping along. After “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” Joel polled the audience and inquired if they wanted to hear “Vienna” or “Just The Way You Are,” where the ballad “Vienna” triumphed, as images of Vienna displayed on the televised screens. Chuck Burgi soared on drums throughout the evening. It was followed by a piano-driven version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” as rainbow lights dimmed from the stage. Mark Rivera showcased his prowess on saxophone.

Joel subsequently put on a Santa Claus hat and serenaded his audience to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” prior to getting everybody on their feet for a trip to “Allentown,” as blue lights decorated the stage. He introduced his lead guitar player Tommy Byrnes from South Shore, Long Island.

Billy Joel

Billy Joel
Herman Canosa

“New York State of Mind” was a classic ballad with Rivera on an exceptional sax solo, as images of “The City That Never Sleeps” displayed from the giant monitors. His entire band soared on harmony vocals on “The Longest Time” and he went on to sing “Frosty The Snowman,” prior to “Keeping the Faith.” After a piano verse of “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” they continued with “Don’t Ask Me Why,” and Joel introduce bassist Andrew Cichon from Adelaide, Australia.

The multi-Grammy winner played “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on piano, which immediately segued into the soothing ballad “She’s Always a Woman,” which featured Joel’s timeless, velvet voice. “Gloria in excelsis Deo” was followed by “Sometimes a Fantasy,” which featured a killer electric guitar solo from Byrnes. Joel introduced the ever-talented Crystal Taliefero on percussion, background vocals, saxophone and harmonica.

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was incorporated as a medley with “The River of Dreams,” where the fans clapped along. One of the highlight vocal performances of the evening came from Mike DelGuice when he performed a spell-binding rendition of “Nessun Dorma,” with Billy Joel on piano, which earned them both a lengthy standing ovation. Joel introduced DelGuidice from “Long Island” on “vocals and guitar.”

They continued with “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” and he closed with “Joy to the World” and his namesake tune, “Piano Man.” For his encore, he returned for the up-tempo “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” where Joel played the electric guitar, and it was followed by such smash hits as “Uptown Girl,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “Big Shot,” “Only the Good Die Young” and “You May Be Right.”

The Verdict

Overall, Billy Joel put on an excellent live concert at Madison Square Garden, just in time for the holidays. Joel and his entire band were spectacular as a whole, and the hits they played were memorable, coupled with the holiday music that was included in their set. He earned five out of five stars for yet another stellar show at Madison Square Garden, which is rightfully known as the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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