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Review: Billy Joel puts on a high-energy show at The Garden, joined by special guest Olivia Rodrigo

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

On Wednesday, August 24, “Piano Man” Billy Joel headlined Madison Square Garden as part of his monthly residency at the iconic venue.

This was the 82nd monthly show as part of Billy’s record-breaking residency which began in January 2014 with him playing one show every month at The Garden. This was his 128th lifetime show at MSG.

Joel kicked off his set accompanying himself on guitar with an enthralling performance of “A Matter of Trust,” and the vibrant “My Life.”

After deafening claps, he welcomed everybody to Madison Square Garden. “I would like to thank Harry Styles for taking the night off, we are trying to squeeze in here,” he said. “This show is actually a makeup show from 2020. All of you people were from that show? I’m sorry we couldn’t play anywhere because of COVID. Sorry for the sneeze, I don’t have COVID as far as I know.”

“It’s good to be back at The Garden,” he said. “We are the house band now. I’m going to back to 1975 for this next song, that’s a long time ago, to the ‘Streetlife Serenade’ album. You don’t have that album, nobody bought that album,” he said jokingly. “I don’t even have that album. Let’s set up an honest thing here, a ‘matter of trust’ here.”

He immediately broke into a resonant rendition of “The Entertainer,” and it was an added treat to hear him perform “Just the Way You Are” in his set, which is a song that he doesn’t normally do that often. “Most people think of my first big hit as ‘Piano Man,’ it wasn’t really a big hit record, it was something they played on the radio but it didn’t really sell a lot of records but ‘Just the Way You Are’ was the first song that was a big hit,” he explained.

After his performance of “Just the Way You Are,” he acknowledged that he “got divorced.” He continued with “Movin’ Out,” which was yet again from his seminal “The Stranger” album.

He went on to stand up to deliver an expressive version of “An Innocent Man,” where he showcased his ability to hit the high notes. Equally stunning were the follow-up tunes “Don’t Ask Me Why,” which he revealed was from the “Glass Houses” album from 1980, and “Vienna,” the latter of which may have not been a hit record but it was extremely “popular.”

After “Zanzibar,” he took his audience on a breathtaking musical journey on “The Downeaster Alexa,” and subsequently put them in a “New York State of Mind” with Mark Rivera’s exceptional saxophone playing. Equally noteworthy were “Allentown” and the atmospheric ballad “She’s Always a Woman.”

Grammy-winning pop star Olivia Rodrigo joined Joel on stage in a surprise appearance. They first sang Olivia’s hit song, “deja vu,” where she famously name-drops Billy and his popular song, “Uptown Girl.” After “deja vu,” the duo segued into “Uptown Girl” in a duet performance together. It is safe to say that this was a full-circle moment for Rodrigo.

He picked up the pace with the catchy “Only the Good Die Young” and Crystal Taliefero showed her prowess as a multi-instrumental queen on “The River of Dreams.”

After a marvelous version of “Nessun Dorma,” which sent tingles down one’s spine, he closed fittingly with “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “Piano Man.”

For his encore, he took his electric guitar and gave the fans a history lesson with “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” It was followed by “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” as well as “Big Shot” and “You May Be Right,” which was juxtaposed as a medley with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” courtesy of Mike DelGuide’s powerhouse vocals.

Over the course of the evening, Joel introduced each talented band member and spotlighted them for the distinct talents that they brought to his live band: Mark Rivera, Crystal Taliefero, Tommy Byrnes, David Rosenthal, Andy Cichon, Carl Fischer, Chuck Burgi, and Mike DelGuidice.

The Verdict

Overall, Billy Joel was able to put on a high-adrenaline and fun show at The Garden. He proves that he is still at the top of his game musically. The addition of Olivia Rodrigo in his concert was an added bonus. He is worth seeing live in concert. His show 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 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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