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Review: Billy Joel performs at Madison Square Garden just in time for Thanksgiving

On November 22, Billy Joel headlined Madison Square Garden in New York just in time for Thanksgiving Eve.

Billy Joel
Billy Joel. Photo Courtesy of Myrna Suarez
Billy Joel. Photo Courtesy of Myrna Suarez

On November 22, Billy Joel headlined Madison Square Garden in New York just in time for Thanksgiving Eve.

This marked his second to last residency show of 2023. His monthly residency at The Garden will officially be ending in July of 2024.

Billy Joel’s Live Band members

His live band consisted of Mark Rivera on saxophone, Crystal Taliefero on percussion and saxophone, Tommy Byrnes on the lead guitar, David Rosenthal on the keyboard and as his musical director, Andy Cichon on the bass, Carl Fisher on the trumpet, Chuck Burgi on drums, and Mike DelGuidice on background vocals and rhythm guitar.

Madison Square Garden show

The “Piano Man” began his concert promptly at 8:20 p.m. with “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” as blue lights dimmed from the stage, and continued with the liberating “My Life,” which was incorporated with a medley of “Ode to Joy.”

“Thank you,” he said. “Good evening, New York,” Joel greeted the sold-out venue. “Welcome to The Garden, and Happy Thanksgiving. Is there a Thanksgiving song?” he inquired.

“Anyway, welcome to The Garden. I’ve got good news and bad news. I’ll give you the bad news first. We don’t have anything new to play for you,” he said, and the crowd cheered with a raucous response.

“The good news is that you don’t have to sit through something you don’t already know, although you might be wishing for a bathroom break, which is always good about new songs because if it’s a new song, you could hit the bathroom,” he said.

Billy Joel
Billy Joel. Photo Credit: Myrna Suarez

“This is Thanksgiving time now,” Joel acknowledged. “Usually, we play the day of or the day after. This is the day before, which I am very thankful for because when you play the day after or the day of Thanksgiving, usually the smell is kind of bad, especially with Brussel sprouts, gravy, and turkey. Well, it gets funky up here,” he said jokingly.

“Anyway, enjoy your meal tomorrow,” he added, prior to taking his fans on a journey to 1971 to his “Cold Spring Harbor” album with the song “Everybody Loves You Now.” “I bet you don’t have that album,” he admitted. “Nobody has that album, I don’t even have that album.”

Joel continued with “The Downeaster Alexa,” which is this journalist’s favorite song in his catalog. “This is a song from an album that came out in 1989 called ‘Storm Front,’ and I wrote this for the fishermen of Long Island. It is getting harder and harder for them to make a living, so this is the Downeaster Alexa,” he explained.

The video boards during this performance features scenes from the sea, which truly captured the essence of this tune and helped transport the audience to different realms.

“Thank you very much,” he said. “I wouldn’t call that yacht rock,” he added with a sweet laugh.

Joel noted that “Zanzibar” is a song from 1978 from his “’52nd Street” album, and it got picked up by TikTok, “not the candy, the website,” he clarified. “I thought it was a candy when I first heard of it,” he admitted. “I’m getting old. This song is a lot of fun to do. We did this with Phil Ramone and he got us some great jazz musicians to play on this recording.”

He tipped his hat to “The Rolling Stones” with a brief version of “Start Me Up” and continued with “An Innocent Man,” where he showcases his piercing high notes.

The doo-wop portion of the show included “The Lion Sleeps Tonight, “Barbara Ann,” and “The Longest Time.”

After the melodically-stunning “The Entertainer,” he performed “Don’t Ask Me Why,” which he wrote in Spain, which is his daughter, Della Rose’s, favorite song of his.

It was followed by “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” which had some attitude to it, and “Half a Mile Away.” It was fun to hear them cover a few Supremes classics such as “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Stop! In the Name of Love,” the latter of which was sheer bliss.

Billy Joel and Mike DelGuidice
Billy Joel and Mike DelGuidice. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

DelGuidice sang the lead vocals on Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,” as green lights dimmed from the stage.

After a trip to “Allentown,” Joel put his fans in a “New York State of Mind” with the help of Mark Rivera on the saxophone. He had the audience singing along with him on “Only the Good Die Young” and segued into “Sometimes a Fantasy.”

“River of Dreams” was incorporated as a medley with Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep — Mountain High,” which was belted out by Crystal Taliefero. She went on to praise “New York City for being the greatest city in the world.”

After a powerful rendition of “Nessun Dorma,” courtesy of Mike DelGuidice, he closed with “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “Piano Man,” where everybody lit up the venue with their phone lights.

Encore

Joel and the band returned to the MSG stage for an encore. He got up from his piano and switched over the electric guitar and gave his audience a history lesson with “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

He continued with “Uptown Girl,” as well as “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” and “Big Shot.” He concluded on a fitting note with “You May Be Right,” where DelGuidice assisted him with the vocals. A fun fact is that DelGuidice also fronts the Billy Joel tribute band Big Shot.

“Billy Joel had everyone on Thanksgiving taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line, because there’s nothing like being in a New York State of Mind,” said Herman Canosa, fan and attendee.

Hallmark actor Beau Mirchoff remarked, “Seeing Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden made rethink my entire existence… Why couldn’t I have been a New Yorker?”

The Verdict

In summation, Billy Joel and his band were able to deliver at Madison Square Garden as part of his monthly residency.

This Rock and Roll Hall of Famer gave us a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving holiday thanks to his classic hits, music, and simply his presence at the “World’s Most Famous Arena.” His concert at The Garden garnered two thumbs up.

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 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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