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Billy Joel At Madison Square Garden, Friday, January 9th, 2014, Reviewed

and so it goes, Billy Joel January 2015

and so it goes, Billy Joel January 2015

Billy Joel’s 13th  consecutive sellout at his epic Madison Square Garden residency was a little on the loose side, pinning up everything we might have problems with the heavyweight piano man. Somewhere between a deep tracks collection and a round up the usual suspects greatest hits, it isn’t as easy as  it looks to maneuver an easygoing two hour superstar set.

First, English guy Jamie Cullum was excellent with 30 minutes of his patented classic rock and modern pop, self written and even a spliced in Billy song, becomes Great American Songbook. Opening with a wittily re-purposed to a freezing cold NYC, Jamie was terrific on “The Wind Cries Mary” and after wishing his wife Sophie a Happy 5th Anniversary, he didn’t look back. A jazz inflected take on Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop The Music” was a complete delight. A charming guy, nice voice, good piano chops and very entertaining, Jamie is playing the Beacon Theatre on February 5th and if you’ve never seen him, do yourself a favor and catch it.

Meanwhile, Billy opened with his usual one two, “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” and “Pressure” and closed it before the encore with “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” and “Piano Man” -none of which I like, and surely he should CLOSE with “Miami 2017” not start with his apocalyptic wishy washy daymare. Joel’s problem is that while when he hits he hits big, as a pop song guy his hit to misses ratio is atrocious. As an album artist, his production values are weak indeed and after 1983 he is good for a coupla songs an album if you’re lucky. Billy hasn’t released any new songs since 1993.

So it is as a live artist Billy needs to prove himself and at 65 years old and a year deep into the MSG , Guinness Book of Records heading stand and he might not be the frisky pitbull of old, when he delivers a full, taking the mic stand and singing at the tip of the stage “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” the man is still enthralling, and when he doesn’t he can be hit and miss (“Zanzibar” followed by Billy The Kid” was terrible and not even the worse) he is still a charismatic presence.

Consider Friday night’s gig by the numbers nothing special, with two exceptions. Joel is on the record as claiming it is his most underrated song, written when Billy was in his 30s for his teenage girlfriend Elle MacPherson, anyone who has loved a much younger person will get it: “and so it goes, and so it goes, and so will you soon I suppose…”. Joel performed it very straight Friday night, just his piano, and it is a heartbreaker: the loss hasn’t happened but it is palatable, you can taste it on your lips.

Almost as good was a “River Of Dreams” quite raucous and thumping and just before the song Joel wished Elvis Presley a happy birthday (a day off but…) and looked upwards as he said “thankyouverymusssh” in a Presley voice, as though Presley was hiding up above. Billy threw in a chorus of “Don’t Be Cruel” mid song a clever concept, the River Of Dreams is exactly where you’ll find Elvis.

Otherwise, another night for MSG’s never ending residency and so it goes and so it goes…

Grade: B

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