“Sing us a song, you’re the Piano Man. Sing us a song tonight.”
Last night at Shea Stadium, Billy Joel did that, and quite a bit more.
Those lines of course from what many consider to be Billy Joel’s unofficial anthem, “Piano Man”,
managed to provide the fans with what many had expected would be the final song of the evening, as was the case Wednesday night during Mr. Joel’s first of his two performances this week. Of course the final song of the night would belong to one Mr. Joel’s special guests, but more on that later.
While I wasn’t there Wednesday, I heard nothing but rave reviews, which including a detailed listing of the songs and guests Mr. Joel had show up, including The Eagles’ Don Henley, John Mayer, John Melencamp and Tony Bennett.
Not bad by any means, especially when you consider they were only side dishes to the main course of Mr. Joel who all in all gave fans 3 hours of performing.
Going into the concert last night, I had heard rumors of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Roger Daughtry of The Who and Garth Brooks all showing up, which only added to my excitement.
As both a fan of Billy Joel, albeit not nearly as long as almost everybody else at Shea last night, and the baseball teams which calls Shea home, it was the perfect storm of excitement for me.
To make a great night even better, I had seats on the floor, which gave my the ability to walk around the field of what I have often considered my home away from home, as I’ve probably spent as much time at Shea Stadium over the last 15 years than I have at any place other than where I’ve gone to school and where I’ve lived.
After spending a good hour and half roaming around the field, I finally settled into my seats and got ready for my first ever dose of Billy Joel.
Not only had I never seen Mr. Joel perform live, last night marked only the second time I’ve attended a concert, the first and only other being Sarah McLachlan a few years ago with my girlfriend at the time (a concert I thoroughly enjoyed, which I’m not ashamed to admit.)
The concert opened up with Mr. Joel singing the Star Spangled Banner, welcoming us to Shea and then getting right into his first song of the night, Miami 2017, during which he followed up a line in the song referencing the Yankees with an ad-libbed line about the Mets playing at Shea.
Most of the first half of his concert was filled with a mix of hits (The Entertainer) and songs that as Mr. Joel proclaimed weren’t hit singles whatsoever (Zanzibar), but everything he sang sounded great regardless, and was generally sung along too by almost everybody there.
Unfortunately, I’m awful with lyrics and showed up unprepared to sing along to anything more than a handful of songs and a chorus here and there, but it didn’t take away from the experience.
Tony Bennett showed up once again to deliver a very moving performance of New York State of Mind, which had the home crowd on it’s feet.
Garth Brooks was the second guest of the night, as he came out to sing Shameless. Mr. Brooks came out in a Mets jersey and hat, as he actually had been invited to spring training with the team back in 2000.
When I had heard Mr. Brooks was going to appear I really wasn’t all too impressed, however after hearing him perform I was left feeling stupid, as he and Mr. Joel sang together and sounded terrific.
During The River of Dreams, Mr. Joel snuck The Beatles’ Hard Days Night in, which was one of the really special moments of the night, as Mr. Joel was paying tribute to the band which first played Shea back in 1965.
A bit later on, Steven Tyler came out and performed Walk this Way which had the crowd going crazy and singing along.
The guests were sandwiched in between all of Mr. Joel’s biggest hits, which included hits such as We Didn’t Start the Fire, It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me, and Captain Jack, which was among the few songs I was able to sing along with (at least partially…aka a few lines beyond the chorus).
What we all believed was going to be the final guest act of the night, Roger Daltrey from The Who came out to sing “My Generation”. Mr. Joel, who had already left his Piano stool, was in full rock star mode as he shattered a guitar into pieces following the end of the song, which had the crowd in a frenzy.
Throughout the night, Mr. Joel showed off the personality which has made him such a fan favorite, cracking self deprecating jokes and interacting with the crowd such as when he was informing us on why he was using a spray to keep his throat moist “because it’s not humid enough out, right?”
I’m too young to have grown up with his music or have much of an appreciation for what he has meant to New Yorker’s, however my first impressions of him in person, at the age of 59, were that I was watching a man who embraced what he has was doing, enjoying it with all of his heart, and truly loving the support he has gotten, not only during his two night stay in Queens, but throughout his career.
He was down to earth and came across as just another one of the guys, which is probably what has allowed him to be so symbolic to New Yorker’s as he has been able to enjoy great success while never forgetting his roots (he stated “to us, anything west of New Jersey is considered the west!”). And like I said, he poked fun at himself by suggesting pre-nuptuals before marriage (he’s currently in his third) and reminded everyone to drive home safely “not like me”.
Mr. Joel, after thanking Shea, set the crowd up for his first encore of the night, coming back out to sing my favorite song of his, Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, a sing in which I belted every word of, losing my breathe between verses and nearly bursting a blood vessel from shouting so loud.
After Only the Good Die Young, Mr. Joel once again left the stage thanking the crowd, but not before a helicopter was seen over the ball park, which caused Mr. Joel himself to look up with a look on his face that sort of hinted somebody had just arrived.
Upon returning for a second encore, Mr. Joel presented the crowd with the greatest surprise of the night, introducing Sir Paul McCartney, at which point I, a 21 year old male who if you ask anybody who knows me- knows I almost never get overly excited about ANYTHING, started screaming and jumping up and down no less than a foot or two in the air.
Paying no attention to the fact I had hurt my back pretty badly earlier in the week and was just starting to feel better, I re-injured it while jumping somewhere between 10 and 15 times screaming “OH MY GOD, THATS PAUL MCCARTNEY” as though it was 1965 and I was a fourteen year old girl.
The former Beatle had the crowd louder than it had been at any point that evening, and played “I Saw Her Standing There” and just like he had back in 1965, had Shea Stadium absolutely unconscious with excitement.
Following McCartney, Joel played a stirring rendition of Piano Man to which everyone sang along, the last chorus without the accompanying music which was awesome.
While we had all believed the show had reached it’s conclusion, Mr. Joel signaled to somebody to come back out, and back on stage was Sir Paul McCartney, this time taking over the Piano and playing Let it Be.
It should be noted that when Mr. McCartney came back out, despite having no feeling what-so-ever in my lower back, the adrenaline must have been working overtime because I started jumping up and down again, as though the Mets had just won the world series.
Singing Let it Be along with Sir Paul McCartney will likely go down as one of the single most memorable experiences I’ll ever be fortunate enough to remember.
It was as close to an out of body experience as I think a person is capable of having.
So fittingly, despite the night clearly belonging to Bill Joel, the Last Play at Shea had it’s final song performed by one of the men who played the very first song when those curtains first opened back in 1965.
Without question, one of the greatest moments and greatest nights of my life, and something that I’ll never forget.
For anybody interested, here is the set list from Friday night’s show
Star Spangled Banner
Miami 2017 (I’ve Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway)
Prelude/Angry Young Man
Summer, Highland Falls
Ballad of Billy the Kid
New York State of Mind (with Tony Bennett)
Root Beer Rag
Don’t Ask Me Why
Keeping The Faith
The Downeaster “Alexa”
Under The Boardwalk/An Innocent Man
Shameless (with Garth Brooks)
She’s Always A Woman
River of Dreams/A Hard Days Night
Walk This Way (with Steven Tyler)
We Didn’t Start The Fire
It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll To Me
My Generation (with Roger Daltrey)
You May Be Right
Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
Only The Good Die Young
I Saw Her Standing There (with Paul McCartney)
Let It Be (with Paul McCartney)