Share This Page

Crowd-pleasing Joel to bring favorites to town

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 1:06 a.m.
Myrna Suarez
Legendary rocker Billy Joel takes the stage at Consol Energy Center Friday night.

Though he's spent more time in the tabloids than the recording studio over the past decade, Billy Joel has more than earned his spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

With more than 20 albums to his credit, Joel is responsible for such enduring classics as “Piano Man,” “New York State of Mind,” “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” “Just the Way You Are,” “My Life,” “Big Shot,” “Only the Good Die Young,” “Allentown,” “Keeping the Faith” and “We Didn't Start the Fire.”

That he hasn't recorded an album of new songs in two decades hasn't hurt his enduring popularity. And despite tabloid obsession with his divorces, financial woes and substance abuse problems, Joel still has no trouble filling venues across the country.

Joel has sold out an open-ended slate of shows at New York City's Madison Square Garden (nine and counting) and drops by Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center Friday night at 8. The arena is all but sold out, with only a handful of Platinum seats remaining at a cost of $325-$465 each.

“I'm a piano player. I never thought of myself as a singer, at all,” Joel told Billboard magazine last month. “I was always trying to sound like somebody else. I don't like my own voice, I like Ray Charles, Robert Plant, I like Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart, people that have an edge in their voice. I happened to sing in tune, I hope, but I always thought of myself as the piano player in the band. I guess my songwriting developed as I went along and I got a certain amount of confidence in that. The songs are like my kids, I'm proud of all of them for one reason or another.”

Those “kids” have allowed the Long Island native to soar to greater heights than he ever dreamed. In December, Joel was honored at the 36th annual Kennedy Center Honors.

“Those songs are out there now making their own money, they don't need Dad anymore,” he said. “It's like, ‘All right kids, get outta the house, make a living, don't depend on Dad.'”

Joel took a break from touring in 2010, save for isolated appearances in New Orleans, Australia and the 12-12-12 concert for Hurricane Sandy Relief. That last appearance convinced the Madison Square Garden brass that Big Apple audiences were eager to see Joel perform.

“We got a whole lot of inquiries about gigging again,” Joel said. “The Garden contacted my agent Dennis Arfa and said we'd like to do a series of shows. They didn't refer to it as a franchise at first, it was a residency. I heard that and thought, ‘Hmm, that's kinda cool.' People talk about a residency in Las Vegas or Branson, Mo., but then you gotta live there. I started thinking, ‘My gig's at the Garden, all I gotta do is commute.'

“I guess they looked at the ticket demand once it was announced and thought, ‘Wait a minute, this guy can keep playing here for the rest of his natural life.' I thought, ‘I'm gonna be 65 next year, am I gonna be able to do this?' But once a month isn't bad.”

Joel admits it took awhile for the magnitude of the project to sink in.

“At the press conference at the Garden to announce this I didn't fully realize what it was until they unrolled this logo which says ‘Billy Joel at the Garden,'” he explained. “It's got its own logo, next to the Knicks, the Rangers, the Liberty women's basketball team, and Billy Joel at the Garden, and all of a sudden it hit me, holy crap, that's a franchise.”

Fortunately for local fans, he scheduled a stop in Pittsburgh between the New York City appearances.

“Of course we are doing other gigs because I gotta feed the elephant, ya know?” he said.

Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1952, jsisk@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.