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Review: Madison Square Garden puts New York fans in a Billy Joel State of Mind

On July 20, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Billy Joel headlined the “World’s Most Famous Arena” as part of his monthly residency at the iconic Big Apple venue Madison Square Garden.

Billy Joel
Billy Joel. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Billy Joel. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On July 20, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Billy Joel headlined the “World’s Most Famous Arena” as part of his monthly residency at the iconic Big Apple venue Madison Square Garden.

He kicked off his set promptly at 8:20 p.m. on a liberating note with “My Life” and broke into the enthralling “Everybody Loves You Now.”

“Good evening New York City. We are at Madison Square Garden, we are the house band here,” Joel said greeting the sold-out crowd. “We are going to do a song that was not a hit single, it was from an album that came out in 1978 called ’52nd Street’ and this is what they used to call an album track,” he explained and immediately went on to perform “Zanzibar.”

While “Summer, Highland Falls” was not a hit single, he noted that it was fun to play.” “We don’t do this one that much because not a lot of people know it, so let’s see what happens,” he said. “It’s from an album that came out in 1976 called ‘Turnstiles,’ and it is an ode to manic depression,” Joel explained and delivered a glorious rendition of “Summer, Highland Falls.”

Joel subsequently stood up to sing “An Innocent Man,” which was the title track of that album that came out in 1983. “As you get older, your voice deepens and I was starting to lose my high notes,” he said. Though he was worried he wasn’t going to be able to nail the high notes on this tune, he did a solid job, and his version was expressive.

“I’m an innocent man, yeah right?” he joked following its warm reception. “I’m so f-ing innocent.”

Equally stunning was his rousing rendition of “The Entertainer,” which he shared was from his “Streetlife Serenade” album that came out in 1974. “Don’t bullshit me, you don’t have that album. Nobody bought that album, there was only one single from it and it wasn’t even a hit,” he said.

After “Movin’ Out,” he went on to perform a stirring version of the piano-laden “Vienna,” where beautiful images were displayed on the video board. The song was from his seminal studio album “The Stranger,” which came out in 1977.

Joel revealed that his younger brother, Alexander Joel, was in the audience tonight, who is an orchestra conductor in Vienna, Austria. “This next song is not a hit single, we used to call them album tracks,” he said about “The Ballad of Billy The Kid,” but noted that he spent the same time and effort writing the album cuts as he did the hit singles.

He noted that “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” was “completely historically inaccurate.” It was his version of doing a score for a western film.

Joel subsequently took his fans and listeners on both a visual and sonic trip to “Allentown.”

He shared that he wrote “Don’t Ask Me Why” when he was in Spain, and performed the catchy tune, which is his daughter Della Rose’s favorite song in his catalog.

His refreshing cover of “A Day in the Life” was incorporated as a medley with “Kashmir” that was belted out by Mike DelGuidice.

“New York State of Mind,” with Mark Rivera on saxophone, became the theme song of the evening, and it was followed by the piano-driven “And So It Goes,” prior to taking up on a trip on “The Downeaster Alexa.”

“She’s Always a Woman” was sheer bliss and it was followed by the uptempo “Only the Good Die Young.”

“The River of Dreams” was a sonic, melodic, and vocal masterpiece, and compliments to Crystal Taliefero for showcasing her passion and charisma on this show-stopping number.

Mike DelGuidice delivered a remarkable version of “Nessun Dorma,” and Joel rounded out his set with the powerhouse tunes “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” and “Piano Man,” both of which were captivating.

For his encore, Joel switched over the electric guitar and gave everybody a history lesson with “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” It was followed by the upbeat and catchy “Uptown Girl,” as well as “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” After “Big Shot,” he closed with “You May Be Right,” which was juxtaposed as a medley with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” which was sung by DelGuidice.

As always, he introduced each gifted band member and spotlighted them for their unique 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.

“Billy Joel proved tonight and for the last 80-plus shows that Madison Square Garden is his house,” exclaimed Nick Tangorra, Long Island entertainer and radio personality. “Seeing a living legend like Billy Joel take the MSG is a must for any New Yorker and any musician. He is one of the greats and tonight he showed he has still got it.”

The Verdict

In summation, Billy Joel put on an incredible live concert at Madison Square Garden as part of his monthly residency. His voice was as resonant and harking as ever, and his gifted band were phenomenal musicians as well. His effervescent live concert at The Garden garnered an A rating.

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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