Exclusive video footage courtesy of JamSpreader.
JamSpreader was in attendance at the inaugural performance by Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden in NYC on Monday night January 27th, 2014 as he began his monthly string of shows and launched the first music residency that the garden has ever hosted.
Tom Odell, who is signed to RCA/Sony Music Entertainment, (Billy’s also signed to Sony), was chosen to open the show, most likely because he plays the piano and the label thought it would be a good fit to introduce him to Billy’s audience. Unfortunately, we missed most of his performance, as did many other concert attendees, because we were hanging out in the newly renovated lounge areas near the concession stands and admiring all of the recent renovations to MSG. Swanky.
Billy, scheduled to go on at 9pm, took the stage a little bit early, and kicked off a 2 hour set that included a mix of well-known hits as well as lesser known album cuts. However, considering the fact that he hasn’t recorded a new pop/rock album in more than 20 years, and his fans have been hungry for new content during that time, what his lack of new music has done is forced his fans to go back to his original albums and old recordings and dig into his back catalog for “new” content. Therefore, lesser known album cuts don’t really exist. Fans know every song on every album. (There were only 12 albums after all. The rest is just repackaging or live recordings.)
Was there a little bit of diminished energy and excitement because we knew he would be there every month and this wasn’t a rare and special stop on a tour? Yes. Did it start to feel a little bit like this was just an oversized Broadway show, a new tourist attraction for NYC? Yes. (After all, isn’t that what it is?) In fact, it even felt like the show would go on if, god forbid, something happened to Billy and he was no longer able to perform. It would instead turn into a giant audience karaoke with the band on stage playing like always and the audience getting together for a good old sing along. Did any of that stop us from having a good time and enjoying the music? Hell no. We had a blast. As anyone who has ever been to a Billy Joel concert knows, it’s like attending the best party you’ve ever been to but instead of a stereo, or a DJ, or a local band playing, it’s Billy Joel himself providing the music. A good time is always had by all. That’s why he keeps doing shows, and they keep selling out, and his audience grows bigger and bigger every year.
Billy Joel transcended musician/songwriter to become a rock star and he has now transcended rock star to become a franchise. It’s a brilliant move on his part and MSG’s part and NYC’s part. It brings in lots of money for all involved (as well as Stub Hub and the various ticket resellers) and gives us NYers a monthly show to attend if we should so choose. It will be interesting to see how the monthly residency affects ticket prices, audience attendance, and concertgoer experiences. While Billy Joel concerts used to be rare and special events, with all of the energy and excitement that surrounds rare and special events, they now stand the chance of becoming mundane, at least among us NY fans. Is that a possibility? Only time will tell. For now, to quote from one of Billy’s hits, “this is the time to remember.” I’ll see you at next month’s show.