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Review: Billy Joel fantastic at Madison Square Garden for 73rd concert (Includes first-hand account)

Joel opened his show with “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway),” as the stage was graced in yellow lights, thus immersing his fans from the very first note. He immediately broke into the upbeat “My Life,” which he incorporated as a crowd sing-along.

“Thank you,” Joel said. “Good evening. Welcome to the Garden,” he added, greeting his audience, prior to dedicating “The Entertainer” to Donald Trump, which featured Mike DelGuidice (guitar and backing vocals) and Tommy Byrnes on acoustic guitars. He took his fans on trip down memory lane to 1977 with the piano-driven ballad, the nostalgic “Vienna,” which was off The Stranger album.

For the following song, he polled the audience as to whether they wanted to hear “Zanzibar” or “Big Man On Mulberry Street,” and after a very tight race the former won. It was followed by “Movin’ Out,” as well as his powerhouse hit “New York State of Mind,” which went on to garner him and his band a standing ovation.

Joel brought out his special musical guest, violinist Itzhak Perlman, for a special duet of “The Downeaster Alexa,” which was absolutely flawless. They also did a follow-up collaboration on “Where’s the Orchestra?”

“Allentown” featured backing vocals from his lead guitarist Tommy Byrnes, as smiley faced balloons bounced in the audience. Following this vocal, Joel introduced his musical director Tommy Byrnes from Long Island.

He continued with “All About Soul” and “Sometimes a Fantasy,” the latter of which he noted was too risky for radio at the time of its original 1980 release.

White lights dimmed on the stage as he performed a tender version of the ballad “She’s Always a Woman,” prior to changing the pace with the upbeat “Don’t Ask Me Why.”

In honor of the forthcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday, Joel brought Perlman back on stage for a special version of his smash hit “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which he played on guitar, as he rocked out the venue.

Joel went on to sing a medley of “The River of Dreams” and The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.” It was followed by a bold rendition of “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” as red lights decorated the stage. It resonated well with the New York audience, which lead to his second lengthy standing ovation of the evening.

As he sang his signature tune, “Piano Man,” audience members’ iPhones lit up Madison Square Garden, which was a beautiful sight. Towards the end of the song, the fans were reciting the “Piano Man” lyrics back to him.

For his encore, he returned to sing “Uptown Girl” as purple lights dimmed on the stage, and Joel stepped aside from the piano. He continued with “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” and “Big Shot,” prior to closing with “You May Be Right” and “Only The Good Die Young.”

The Verdict

Overall, Billy Joel is a performer that gets better with each and every live performance. He and his talented band members gave The Big Apple a night of rock and roll music to remember. Itzhak Perlman was fabulous as well. Joel is highly recommended seeing live whenever he is in town. His March 15 concert at Madison Square Garden garnered an A+ rating.

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 19,900 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 seven-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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