Dec. 11, 1977 (1 show) The Stranger
Photo credit: Sony Music Entertainment / Art Maillet

Dec. 11, 1977 (1 show)

The Stranger

Billy Joel remembers feeling on the night of Dec. 11, 1977, that it was a case of “Hometown Boy Makes Good.”

“That was a big charge,” Joel said in a June 2015 interview. “All of a sudden, here I am playing in arenas after years of slogging away in the trenches. Now, I’m home and I’m playing the big room, so of course that was a thrill.”

WNEW-FM’s Pete Fornatale put the night in perspective, telling the capacity crowd, “This is a homecoming for all of us as much as it is for Billy.”

Long Island got the chance to celebrate its own homegrown rock star in its own arena. It was an event to remember. And Joel did his best to make it special, even changing up his show. “Now you don’t have to sit around waiting for that song,” Joel said, after he played “Piano Man” early in the set.

Set list

By the numbers

  • Attendance 18,000
  • Copies sold of “The Stranger” 10 million
  • Grammys won for “Just the Way You Are” 2

Billy Joel remembers

We’d worked in the New York-Long Island area for so long that we thought [Nassau Coliseum] was the right place for us to start doing arenas … I also chalked it up to local following. I thought, ‘this hasn’t translated nationally.’ I hadn’t realized at the time that it actually had.

It took me awhile to catch up with what was going on. The album [‘The Stranger’] had gotten so big, but you don’t know when you’re out on the road just playing. The rooms get bigger, you think, ‘Well, OK, more people heard about us.’


On “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” he sounded very much like Paul McCartney would sound if McCartney had grown up in Hicksville. Joel, however, brought to mind other artists last night. “New York State of Mind” is such a perfect counterpart to “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” that it’s a wonder Tony Bennett hasn’t recorded it. Joel sang the song with a growly inflection that made it clear that this would also be a fine vehicle for Ray Charles. Joel added a few words to the lyrics for this occasion. On the original recording, Joel notes missing “The New York Times, the Daily News.” Last night, Joel added “Newsday, too” to that line and the audience actually cheered. — Wayne Robins, Newsday, Dec. 12, 1977

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The Stranger

Somewhere Along the Line

Summer, Highland Falls

Piano Man

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

Travelin’ Prayer

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)

Still Crazy After All These Years

Just the Way You Are


Angry Young Man

New York State of Mind

The Entertainer


Root Beer Rag

She’s Always a Woman

I’ve Loved These Days

Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)

The Ballad of Billy the Kid

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Captain Jack

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

Only the Good Die Young


Get It Right the First Time