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Review: Billy Joel and Itzhak Perlman masterful at Madison Square Garden (Includes first-hand account)

Joel kicked off his set with the catchy “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” as blue lights dimmed from the stage, and it was followed by “Pressure.”

He greeted his New York audience and welcomed them to the “World’s Most Famous Arena.” “Last time I was here, they hit my house,” he said. jokingly. “Everybody knows I’m not home. I have dogs, light, guns, and everything at the house. I am hoping they try it again. C’mon, bring it on.”

“Everybody is fine,” he assured the fans. “We are going to do a song that goes back to 1977 and it’s from The Stranger album,” he said, and immediately broke into Vienna and it was followed by a vivacious rendition of “The Stranger,” where Crystal Taliefero joined him on sultry background vocals.

Joel was able to get the crowd on their feet during “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” and he introduced Chuck Burgi on drums. He subsequently tipped his hat to “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with a snippet of “Born to Run” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” both of which were well-received. “We can do other’s people shit,” Joel said, referring to the cover songs in his set.

He also did a soaring version of Led Zeppelin’s classic rock tune “Kashmir” with Mike DelGuidice on lead vocals, which stole the show. He also paid homage to Elton John with “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” as yellow lights dimmed from the stage. Tommy Byrnes from South Shore, Long Island, rocked the lead guitar.

“Ok, let’s do one of ours,” he said and referred to the following songs as the “New York” section of his set, and rightfully so. He started off with “Big Man on Mulberry Street” and immediately put the audience in a “New York State of Mind,” which featured the ever-talented Mark Rivera on saxophone.

“Let’s go to another state,” he said, and took fans on a musical journey to “Allentown.” He went on to introduce his special musical guest of the evening, acclaimed violinist Itzhak Perlman, who performed “Where’ the Orchestra” with the “Piano Man.”

Joel noted that Perlman played the violin on “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’,” where at the time, he didn’t get the credit on the song, but Joel more than made up for it last night, when he gave credit to him in front of 20,000 people, as they performed a glorious version of “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’,” which was sheer perfection.

He had the fans clapping along to “Don’t Ask Me Why,” and introduced bassist Andrew Cichon from “the fires of Australia.” He continued with yet another obscure song “A Room of Our Own.” “If any of you need to go to the bathroom, now is the time,” he told the audience, jokingly.

Joel introduced musical director David Rosenthal on the keyboard (who is from New Jersey) and he continued with a stunning piano-laden version of “She’s Always a Woman” and threw some old-school R&B/soul in the mix with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” He shared that the Eagles performed at Madison Square Garden a few days prior and performed “Take It Easy” in their honor.

He had the audience singing along to the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” and it was followed by “My Life.” He picked up the pace with “Only the Good Die Young” and longtime band member Crystal Taliefero displayed her tremendous talent on percussion on “The River of Dreams.”

Mike DelGuidice gave everybody goosebumps with a superb version of “Nessun Dorma,” which literally chilled the audience to the bone. Joel closed with his dynamic musical numbers “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “Piano Man,” both of which earned lengthy standing ovations.

For his encore, he kicked it off by giving his fans a history lesson with “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and immediately broke into “Uptown Girl,” where everybody was singing along and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” prior to closing with “Big Shot” and “You May Be Right.”

The Verdict

Overall, Billy Joel put on an amazing live show at Madison Square Garden as part of his monthly residency. His voice was as resonant and powerful as ever, and his gifted band were phenomenal as well. He sang some of the greatest fan-favorites, and elegantly covered classics by the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, and Elton John. He is highly recommended seeing in concert. His live concert at The Garden garnered five out of five stars.

To learn more about Billy Joel, his music and his tour dates, check out his official website.

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 18,000 original articles over the past 16 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a six-time consecutive "Best of Long Island" winner, and in the past three years, 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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