Billy Joel begins Madison Square Garden residency

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Billy Joel begins Madison Square Garden residency


Billy Joel performs the first show of his Madison Square Garden residency, on Monday in New York. [AP/NEWSIS]

NEW YORK - Piano man Billy Joel began his monthly run at Madison Square Garden with an energetic show that covered a wide swath of music from his five-decade career.

Shortly before 9 p.m. local time Monday night, Joel and his band came out to thunderous applause and launched into “Miami 2017,” a song Joel wrote in the early 1970s about post-apocalyptic New York City. The song officially launched an unusual run at the famed venue, home of the NBA’s Knicks and NHL’s Rangers and one of America’s biggest music venues.

Throughout the evening, Joel seemed to touch on at least one song from most of his studio albums. The only notable omission was 1989’s “Storm Front.”

While he didn’t hold back on the classics like “New York State of Mind” and “Allentown,” Joel also performed the lesser played tracks “The Entertainer” and “Zanzibar” that included a sultry trumpet solo by Carl Fischer.

Joel performed “The Longest Time” a cappella, and after he finished said: “It sounds better in a men’s room.” And when he introduced “Everybody Loves You Now,” a song from his first album, “Cold Spring Harbor,” he told the audience: “I doubt you have it. I don’t have it.”

Throughout the night, the 64-year-old musician maintained a strong stage presence and his voice never seemed to waver. Though for most of the night he remained seated at his baby grand piano (on previous tours Joel would play guitar, organ and run around the stage), he did manage to leave the piano during the encore to perform “You May Be Right,” opting to work the microphone stand.

Before beginning some of his songs, Joel favored a throat spray. At one point he even joked: “I saw Madonna do this once, but it didn’t help her much.”

Early in the show, the piano man acknowledged the first night of the franchise shows and his long career. “I have no idea how long this is going to go,” he told the crowd. “2014 is my 50th year in show business. What was I thinking?”

He also poked fun at himself when he saw his face on the video screen, disappointingly remarking that he never imagined he would look like his father.

“I thought I was gonna’ look like Cary Grant,” he joked to the crowd.

For the last song of the set, he channeled Derek and the Dominos by playing the piano coda from “Layla,” before launching into “Piano Man.” He even altered the lyrics toward the end to reflect the evening by saying: “It’s a pretty good crowd for a Monday night” to enthusiastic cheers.

Perhaps the evening’s most poignant performance was the spirited version of “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” that had the entire arena singing along, and even waving during the line, “Here we are waving Brenda and Eddie goodbye.”

The Grammy Award-winning icon announced in December that he will perform at the famed venue every month for as long as New Yorkers demand. He’s set to perform sold-out shows every month until September with more being added later in the year. His May 9 show commemorates his 65th birthday.

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