Feb. 25, 2006. Madison Square Garden. Section 233, Row E, Seat 1. Those figures have been in my head for the past three months.
Needless to say, I was extremely excited to see Billy Joel in concert. I love many of his songs, and who knows how much longer the 56-year-old will be able to perform?
After attending the sold-out show, I can easily say that it was the best concert I have ever attended. The concert also helped me realize that Joel is a lot more than just a talented musician with a lot of good songs.
Joel’s music is timeless. Some of the lyrics of his 1974 song “The Entertainer” include, “Today I am your champion/ I may have won your hearts, but I know the game/ You’ll forget my name/ and I won’t be here in another year/ if I don’t stay on the charts.”
These lines are accurate for most of music’s big stars, but Joel’s music has survived the test of time.
His popularity is obvious even nowadays, considering he sold out all 12 shows at Madison Square Garden.
The cheapest T-shirts were sold for $35. Vendors walked around selling cups of champagne so audience members could enjoy the show in style.
As the concert kicked off, I kept on looking around and was amazed at the crowd around me.
There was not an empty seat in the house, and every single person there was full of energy and ready to go crazy for every song.
Even more significant was the range of age groups.
I saw little kids with their parents, teenagers with their friends and senior citizens all standing and singing along to “Movin’ Out.” How many other musicians can attract such a wide range of people?
Joel knew how to appeal to this diverse crowd.
After his first song, he thanked people for buying tickets in the nosebleed section because he needs the money for his car insurance.
During “Big Shot,” he sported a backward cap and walked around the stage like a teenager who wants to act cool but just isn’t.
As Joel began to sing hit after hit, I began to think about how many great songs he has.
I am not the biggest Billy Joel fan, yet I was still familiar with every song he played over the two-and-a-half hour concert.
He started the concert by showing off his piano skills with “Angry Young Man.” He gave the New York City crowd a thrill with “New York State of Mind.”
He then went to some other classics like “River of Dreams,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “Captain Jack.” And of course, he finished things off with “Piano Man,” his most famous song.
The next thing I knew, the concert was almost over. Joel walked off the stage before returning to play three final songs.
As I stood in the dark waiting for him to come out for the encore, I looked around and saw the whole crowd standing and holding cellular phones up in the air to create a candlelight effect. It was a powerful moment.
When he started singing “Piano Man,” he might as well have just played the piano and harmonica and let the audience do the singing.
The crowd reacted especially strongly to one verse, which sums up the power of Joel’s music perfectly: “It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday/ and the manager gives me a smile/ ‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been comin’ to see/ to forget about life for a while.”
Twenty thousand people packed in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, each with their own problems, but for the duration of the concert all they could think about was enjoying the greatest entertainer of our time.