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Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden:
♪   Oh, oh, oh — for the 100th time   ♪

Joel at a 2016 concert. Photo by Myrna Suarez

BILLY JOEL SITS on a rolling office chair in what is normally the visitors locker room at Madison Square Garden and puts daughter Della Rose on his knee.

Della has a request. She wants him to play “Don’t Ask Me Why” in that night’s show.

“What will you do when I play that?” Joel asks Della, who will be 3 years old on Aug. 12.

She slides off Joel’s knee and does a little dance, much to the delight of Joel, wife Alexis, and the crew gathered in the room. Joel takes creative director Steve Cohen aside and tells him to move “Don’t Ask Me Why” up in the set to make sure she can see it.

That night, “Don’t Ask Me Why” moved all the way up to the third song in the show. Joel dedicates it to his daughter, telling the crowd, “She’s probably going to be falling asleep soon.”

As the band starts, Joel sits at the piano and shades his eyes from the spotlight to look over to the seats where Della is already dancing with Alexis. Seeing them happy, Joel starts the countdown to signal the band that he is ready to start singing, “Uno! Dos! Uno, dos, tres, cuatro!”


BILLY JOEL IS most definitely a rock star. His American tour this summer is nothing but stadiums — including Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. His greatest hits collection has sold more copies than any other album in history, except Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the Eagles’ greatest hits. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and he was honored by the Kennedy Center for the Arts and received The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

But these days, the Hicksville native’s life is increasingly about family — both the one that lives with him on Centre Island and the close-knit work family that has helped him put on shows for decades. On Wednesday, July 18, Joel is set to headline Madison Square Garden for the 100th time — nearly 40 years after he made his debut there — marking a milestone so high it was considered unthinkable for years.

“I remember my first show at The Garden, that was a milestone,” Joel says. “If someone would have projected that I would do 100 shows there, I would have laughed at them. I’d say you’re being ridiculous.”

Billy Joel and Madison Square Garden

Joel performs at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 15, 1978. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Waring Abbott

Even Jim Dolan, chairman and CEO of The Madison Square Garden Co., said the record seems unbreakable. “Billy Joel is one of the greatest figures in rock and roll history, and he has now accomplished something that might never be equaled — 100 shows in a single venue,” Dolan said in a statement. “This milestone is a testament to the strength of Billy’s music and his incredible connection to his fans — many of whom come from Long Island. All of us at The Madison Square Garden Company look forward to he, and his fans, continuing to make The Garden their home well into the future.”

Joel jokes that he accomplished the stunning feat simply because he didn’t die. (“The secret of success? Just don’t die!” he says, laughing. “The secret of longevity? Stay alive!”)

When pressed for a serious answer, he laughs again. “I don’t have the slightest idea,” says Joel, who began playing monthly at The Garden in 2014, the first (and only) arena-sized residency in music history. “The audiences are great. The venue is great. It’s a world-class venue. To have a residency there is a dream already. I never imagined that anyone could have a residency at The Garden. We’re a franchise. We’re like a sports team. The whole thing has just been one crazy, exhilarating night after another.”

Unlike many superstar headliners these days, Joel keeps most of his show preparations secret. He doesn’t sell VIP concert packages that include access to his sound check. He doesn’t offer meet-and-greet sessions before his shows. He doesn’t even sell tickets to the front row of seats, for that matter. (Those seats are given to excited fans that Joel’s crew finds in the upper-level seats.)

However, Joel granted Newsday access to the backstage preparations of his Madison Square Garden concert on May 23, the 98th Garden show of his career, to see what goes into putting on his show at the arena. More than 1,500 people work at every Joel concert — including everyone from the musicians to the ushers — and most have worked at many, if not all, of the shows in the residency.

Billy Joel and Madison Square Garden

Kevin James presents Billy Joel with his recognition for a record 65th appearance at Madison Square Garden on July 1, 2015. Photo Credit: Robert Altman / Invision / AP


MOST DAYS START around 8 a.m. with production manager Bobby “Boomer” Thrasher, who handles the setup of the stage and the logistics of putting together everything backstage, meeting with his team. “I wouldn’t call it a science,” says the Ontario native who started with Joel 36 years ago building stages and quickly moved up the ranks. “It’s called a living.”

Thrasher, who has also worked on tours with Bruce Springsteen and Elton John and received the 2018 Parnelli Audio Lifetime Achievement Award, says the residency has given a lot of people a stability that is almost unheard-of among music professionals. “It’s almost like a cab medallion — once you get it, you don’t want to lose it,” says Thrasher, who proudly says his sons Ted, the drum tech, and Lucas, who helps build the stage and works the teleprompter, also work for Joel. “This is where you want to be. This is heaven.”

Most of Joel’s tight-knit crew say the atmosphere comes directly from The Piano Man himself. “With other acts, management handles the hiring and they are often deciding based on the dollar,” Thrasher says. “For us, Billy handles it and he decides based on what’s best for the show… He brought all of us here. We’re his family. We’re his comfort factor and he’s our comfort factor.”

Joel says he believes the key to keeping his band and crew together is mutual respect. “A lot of these guys have been with me for 40 years or longer,” he says. “[Sound engineer] Brian Ruggles has been with me for 50 years. … I respect what they do. I know how hard they work and I hopefully compensate them accordingly. I acknowledge that everyone is as important as everybody else. I know I’m out front, but I still feel like I’m playing in a band.”

Billy Joel and Madison Square Garden

Billy Joel dances with then girlfriend Christy Brinkley as she holds onto Joel’s Madison Square Garden Platinum Ticket on July 5, 1984. The Garden Platinum Ticket was presented to music entertainers who attracted more than 250,000 fans to The Garden. Photo Credit: Associated Press / Mario Suriani

Joel has his own dressing room at Madison Square Garden, of course. Actually, it’s a well-appointed suite of rooms. But he prefers to be in the main production room, at the end of Thrasher’s table, not too far from the pizza boxes and chicken wings set up for the band and crew.

That’s usually where the VIPs come in to meet him before the show. It’s where they’ll gather to sing “Happy Birthday” to Joel’s agent Dennis Arfa and saxophonist Mark Rivera before they take the stage. It’s where creative director Cohen likes to arrive around 10 a.m. on show days, hours before he really needs to be there.

“They’re all my family and we only get to see each other once a month so this is where you want to be on a workday,” Cohen says. “It’s not like other tours where you wait until catering is all set up.”


THE MUSICAL PLANS for the day start with Cohen, who comes up with a rough draft of the night’s set list. “That’s usually based on looking at what we’ve done in the past and what we’ve been talking about that might be fun to add,” says Cohen, who proudly says he is one of only four people in the organization, including Joel, to be at all 100 shows at The Garden, along with sound engineer Ruggles and agent Arfa. “Billy likes to not sing certain songs back to back. Some guys like to play certain songs. I filter all that stuff.”

Around 4 p.m., the closing half of “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” floats into the production room from sound check, as Cohen talks. The band — keyboardist/musical director Dave Rosenthal, guitarists Tommy Byrnes and Mike DelGuidice, the horn section of Mark Rivera, Crystal Taliefero and Carl Fischer, bassist Andy Cichon and drummer Chuck Burgi — has started without Joel, who is caught in the traffic caused by President Donald Trump’s visit to Long Island.

When the band kicks into “My Life,” Cohen pauses to listen. After a few notes, he says, “That’s Mike DelGuidice singing. Billy must not be here yet.”

Cohen says the residency has succeeded because it is “like the perfect storm.” “You have Billy, who is like the hood ornament for the city of New York; Madison Square Garden, which is the most famous arena in the world; and Billy playing ‘New York State of Mind’,” he says. “Every single night, I get goose bumps. I think I remember the electricity of seeing Frank Sinatra walk on the stage in Las Vegas. That’s the only kind of thing I can equate this to. … The sum is greater than the parts.”

Billy Joel and Madison Square Garden

Joel belts out a tune while playing guitar at The Garden on Oct. 2, 1993. Photo Credit: Associated Press / Paul Hurschmann

While the band runs through some other songs, most of the people in the production room continue their work. But when the band moves into something unfamiliar, everyone looks up. “What are they playing?” asks deputy production manager Liz Mahon, before several people go to find out.

It turns out the band is rehearsing “Half a Mile Away,” a song from Joel’s 1978 album “52nd Street” that he has never played in concert before.

“We dabbled with it and thought, ‘Let’s give it a shot,’ ” Rosenthal says later. “He has so many great songs to choose from. We like to mix it up a little bit.”

Rosenthal says that every sound check with Joel is different. On this one, the band wanted to warm up a bit since it had been a while since they had all played together.


WHEN JOEL ARRIVES, they try “Half a Mile Away” again, then Joel leads them into a bit of the Gloria Gaynor disco classic “I Will Survive,” adopting a falsetto until Taliefero takes over in full voice.

“We’re not faking it,” Rosenthal says afterward. “We’re really having a good time.”

The band goes through “Goodnight Saigon,” which Joel wants in the set as a tribute to Memorial Day, and that segues into The Doors’ “The End.” Joel says they also need some summer-themed songs to mark the holiday.

“I thought ‘Summer Wind’ might be kind of cool,” Byrnes says, as they try it out. Soon, they are all doing bits of “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and “Summertime Blues,” before going into Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times.”

They also practice “I Go to Extremes,” with the five-part harmonies sounding extra-crisp in the empty arena. As they wrap up, Joel breaks out a bit of “I’m in the Mood for Love” and “Tangerine” on the piano. Burgi keeps the beat while the rest of the band leaves the stage.

Billy Joel and Madison Square Garden

Joel performs at MSG on April 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Rosenthal says later that he was happy with how “I Go to Extremes” sounded. “We hadn’t done that song in a really long time,” he says. “It’s a remarkable group of musicians who can come together like that. We haven’t played together in six weeks. We didn’t rehearse. We did a sound check, played a few songs and here we go. The band is like turning over an old Chevy. You turn the key and it goes. It takes a certain type of chemistry in a band to be away and then be on 10 now. It’s a certain type of energy and a lot of that comes from Billy because he’s able to do that too.”

Sitting at Thrasher’s table before the show, Joel still isn’t sure about doing “Half a Mile Away” in the show. He asks Cohen and they decide to go for it.

Before Joel plays it in the show, he warns the crowd about the song. “I wrote it, I recorded it, I forgot about it,” he says. “We’re on the edge here.”

The crowd offers its encouragement. “I don’t even know how it starts,” says Joel, before the band kicks into the disco-era jam which segues into “I Will Survive.”

“I didn’t expect it to work that well, but I don’t know that it’s going to become a dedicated part of the show,” Joel says later. “We’ll just keep taking stuff out of mothballs and try it out. It’s almost like doing new material if you haven’t done it in a long time.”

It was a fun moment, the kind that sticks out in Joel’s memory. His favorite moments at Madison Square Garden are the ones that involve special guests. “John Mayer is such a good musician, it’s great working with him,” he says. “The night we had Paul Simon and Miley Cyrus, that was fun. … Kevin James did some wild stuff with us.”

Billy Joel and Madison Square Garden

Paul Simon, Miley Cyrus and Billy Joel perform at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 30, 2017 during one of Joel’s shows. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Kevin Mazur

For Joel, the night that stands out most in his head was one that wasn’t particularly good. “I was sick and I took all kinds of medicine and cough syrup and cold medicine and then somebody had the bright idea of bringing me tea with whiskey in it and honey to help my cold,” he says. “This was right after 9/11 and about halfway through the show, all that [expletive] kicked in and I just started rambling, talking about American war battles like Iwo Jima and Normandy and the Alamo. I was all pissed off about being attacked. I just started yelling, ‘Who the hell do they think they are?’ and ‘We’re not going to take this!’ And by the end of the show, my crew comes over and says, ‘Are you OK?’ I was kind of out of it…. I was so angry about 9/11 that something had to give. I had to say something. I don’t usually get up on a soapbox, but that particular time I was so emotionally overwrought that, yeah, I did.”

That night sparked plenty of questions about Joel and his drinking, though it quickly became overblown, even after a stint in rehab. “People think I’m the Dean Martin of rock and roll and that I’m drunk whenever I’m on the stage,” he says. “That would be impossible. That show I did overmedicate. It stands out in my memory. That was terrible. I’ll never do that again. I felt bad that my throat was so bad.”

In a way, it was similar to another remarkable night in Joel’s Madison Square Garden history — Aug. 21, 2017, the concert the week after the white supremacist riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“I was angry then too,” Joel says. “I wanted to make a statement, but I didn’t want to do it verbally. I wanted to do it in a symbolic fashion. And I thought, ‘This will be the night for me to wear the yellow star.’ ”

Joel says his decision to wear the Star of David, a symbol of Jewish identity connected with the Holocaust, offended some. “I don’t know if they know that my family was persecuted by the Nazis,” he says. “Most of my family was slaughtered in Auschwitz. Most of my father’s family was fortunate enough to get out just before they were sent away. … I was protesting Trump saying there were good people on both sides. No. No, no, no. You can’t equivocate evil like that, I’m sorry. Nazis are bad. Ku Klux Klan? Bad. Those aren’t good people.”

Joel has often said he tries to stay away from politics because he doesn’t want to influence people in a way that could be wrong. However, he felt he had to stand up against white supremacists.

“I was really upset about what happened in Charlottesville,” he says. “It was an indicator of what was happening in the entire country and it really upset me. I’m still upset to this day about that. I’m personally offended by Nazis. They personally offend me. The Ku Klux Klan personally offends me. I don’t put up with that. Not only did my father’s family go through that, but my father was in the Army with Patton fighting Nazis as a soldier. Now these stupid punk neo-Nazis are marching through the streets of my country? After my father went over there to stop Nazism? I’m personally offended by that. I think if my father’s generation saw these stupid idiots walking around with swastikas on their armbands, they’d smack the living [expletive]out of them. I find it personally offensive. We fought a war to put an end to that kind of thing. These morons are going to try to resuscitate it. No. If the current leader of our country is OK with that, it’s not OK with me.”

Though Joel’s political statements are few and very far between, he says he does appreciate how his residency offers him a monthly outlet to communicate with his audience. “There is a little bit of the town crier in it,” he says. “I’m a New Yorker. I kind of sense what other New Yorkers are feeling. I think it would be remiss of me not to remark on something happening at the moment. It depends on what it is, though.”

Billy Joel and Madison Square Garden

Joel performs at MSG on Jan. 27, 2014. Photo credit: Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images


JOEL HAS CONCERTS scheduled through the end of this year and expects to continue next year, when he turns 70. When the residency began, he famously said that the shows would continue for as long as fans wanted to see him, but now it has become clear that may not come any time soon.

Joel says he may call an end to his residency when his body can’t handle it any more. “There is definitely a physicality to the job and the older I get, the more apparent it becomes to me,” he says. “If I can’t do it well, or as well as I want to, I’m going to stop. I admire the athletes who took themselves out of the game, the Joe DiMaggios, the people who walked away before they lost it. That’s an honorable thing and I’d like to be able to do that. I did it with recording and songwriting and I’ll probably do it with performing as well.”

The discussion of when to stop is one that comes up with many of his friends. Paul Simon plans to retire from touring in September, with a massive show at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. Paul McCartney, on the other hand, has just announced plans for a new album and another world tour.

“Paul said, ‘What am I gonna do? Sit around and watch the telly?’ ” Joel says, adopting the Beatle’s British accent.

“Bruce’s thing was, ‘Well, it just seemed like a good idea,’ ” Joel says, doing his best Springsteen.

“[Don] Henley said, ‘Well, this is what I do. What else would I do?’ ” Joel says. “They’re all right for their own reasons. I find myself agreeing.”

For years, he has dropped hints about retirement. But after replacing both hips and working out some issues with allergies, Joel now moves and sounds better than he has in decades. And he clearly lights up when his family comes into a room.

Joel says he gets a kick out of seeing Della run around backstage at The Garden. “I don’t think she knows what a rock star is, which I kinda dig, I’m just Daddy,” he says. “If I start to sing in the house, she says, ‘No, no, shut up. I wanna sing.’ She tells me to shut up. So I joke around. I say, ‘People want to pay money to hear Daddy sing.’ And she says, ‘No, no, no, I wanna sing.’ She doesn’t care. It’s cute. I’m just Daddy. And all the folks backstage, those are all her aunts and uncles. They’re crazy about her.”

Della isn’t quite 3 years old, but the dramatic element of her personality is already on display. “Alexa, my oldest daughter, was always definitely musical — she took piano lessons,” Joel says. “Della is musical, but I don’t know if it’s the same kind of musical as Alexa. She likes to sing and fool around on harmonica. She’s more theatrical, more an actress type. The little one, Remy, I think she’s going to be an attorney. She’s very serious. She looks like she’s going to be a deep thinker.”

Billy Joel and Madison Square Garden

Joel performs with daughter Alexa Ray in 2018. Photo Credit: Myrna Suarez

Joel says he would be happy with his daughters no matter what they do. “It would be very convenient if the younger daughter is an attorney and she looks after the rest of the family,” he says, laughing about planning her career even before her first birthday in October. “That would work out fantastic. We don’t have any lawyers in my family.”

Joel is clearly not interested in doing massive tours any more — the long, tedious ones that he says make him feel like Willy Loman from “Death of a Salesman.” But he likes his current pace of work and wonders if stopping completely would be a mistake.

“Maybe when you stop doing it is when you stop being alive,” he says. “What did Dylan say, ‘He not busy being born is busy dying’? There’s probably something to that. If you do not continually invent yourself, if you don’t do what your life force is telling you to do, you begin to die.”

For Joel, he’ll know it’s time to retire the way some people define art. He’ll know it when he sees it, or feels it.

“One night, I’ll know right then and there and I’ll say, ‘That’s it. Don’t put any more tickets on sale,’ ” Joel says. “One thing I know, I’m not going to do a farewell tour. If I’m going to stop, I’m just going to stop. I’m going to take myself out of the lineup like DiMaggio.”

Until then, Joel plans to rock on.

Billy Joel and Madison Square Garden

Joel performs at MSG on April 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Theo Wargo / Getty Images

My Father’s Place, legendary Long Island venue, returns

Michael “Eppy” Epstein built his career by seeing potential where others didn’t.

At his legendary club My Father’s Place, Epstein proved that the suburbs would embrace cool artists just as much as city dwellers did, bringing Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, U2, The Ramones and countless other groundbreaking artists of the ’70s and ’80s to Roslyn. He believed America would fall in love with reggae music as much as he did in Jamaica, helping Marley and numerous other reggae stars get started in this country.

And now, Epstein hopes to establish a new kind of club experience on Long Island when My Father’s Place at The Roslyn Hotel opens with an ambitious run of concerts starting with Buster Poindexter on Friday, June 29.

Michael ‘Eppy’ Epstein in the ballroom of the Roslyn Hotel on June 8, 2018. Video by: Bruce Gilbert

“Maybe I’m being romantic about this,” Epstein says. “But I believe the best thing I can do is help people fall in love with music again.”

He paved the way for so many musical love affairs from 1971 to 1987, a few blocks away on Bryant Avenue. The original My Father’s Place, which became the first venue inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2010, introduced generations to up-and-coming artists from all over the world, from Hicksville’s Billy Joel and Long Beach’s Billy Crystal to British rockers like The Police and Jamaica’s Bob Marley & The Wailers.

“We want to offer something for everyone,” he says. “If you don’t see it one night, you’ll see it another time. I was always a general practitioner in music and I still am.”

Though the 70-year-old Epstein has dreamed of opening another concert venue in Roslyn for years, My Father’s Place at The Roslyn Hotel came together quickly.

When 935 Lakshmi LLC, headed by Upper Brookville’s Sudhir Kakar, purchased The Roslyn Hotel in April 2017, the new owners wanted to generate excitement at the 77-room hotel. In November, they settled on bringing in Epstein and his partners, chief operating officer/general manager Dan Kellachan, best known for his decades of heading up marketing at Westbury Music Fair and NYCB Theatre at Westbury, and chief financial officer Alex Ewen, best known for co-founding Renegade Nation with Steven Van Zandt, the company that developed the Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show and satellite channel, as well as concerts and other events.

Weeks after the deal was announced, though, it became clear to Epstein how much work had to be done. Walking through the basement space, which housed the hotel’s ballroom, he pointed out all the changes he wanted to make to the 2,700-square-foot space, about half the size of the original club.

“The carpet has to go,” Epstein says. “We’re going to tear down the mirrored doors.”

Standing in a mirrored entranceway, he says, “The stage will go here.”

In a storage room stacked with extra tables and chairs, Epstein envisions a smaller bar, where concertgoers can wait for the doors to open in the main room before the show or grab a drink afterwards. The hotel gym and its treadmills gets slated to become the band’s dressing room.

“Can you see it?” Epstein says. “We want to build a place for people to come for a good time.”

Epstein recognizes, though, that for fans of the original My Father’s Place, the definition of “a good time” has likely changed in the past three decades.

“People want a good meal and a good chair to go with seeing a good show,” says Epstein, adding that he is eager to bring the concept of a Manhattan supper club to Roslyn, but with the Long Island luxury of more space.

Kellachan says that comfort will be an important part of the new My Father’s Place experience. “If an act has a bigger stage setup, I’m going to be killing seats rather than squeezing people together,” he says, adding that the room’s capacity could be larger, but to keep the atmosphere relaxed, they planned to cap it at 200. “We’re aiming to make it comfortable.”

Kellachan says that the whole experience will be different from the one at the old My Father’s Place. “We’re not a roadhouse,” he says. “It will be more of the experience at a nice restaurant. Nobody will be jumping up and down in front of you and spilling cheap beer on your girlfriend. Everyone will have a great view of the stage.”

One thing Long Islanders will have to get used to is the $25 minimum per person at the show, though it will be a familiar concept to visitors to many Manhattan clubs, not just the supper clubs.

Kellachan says the new My Father’s Place is trying to inform concertgoers about the best way to experience the venue through its website, myfathersplace.com. In order to enjoy a leisurely dinner, Kellachan suggests arriving two hours before the show’s start time. Tables will be cleared before the music starts and food won’t be served while the bands play, though you can still order drinks at your seat or at the bar.

“It’s a basic premise: Now that we’re older, we’re looking for a nicer experience,” Kellachan says.

What hasn’t changed, though, is My Father’s Place’s commitment to music.

“Left to my own devices, I’d book nothing but original local talent and work to develop some new superstars,” Epstein says. “But what we’re going to do is mix it up. We’ll take traditional artists and give them a chance to do something special. We’ll have local artists in to give them a chance. I’m really proud of this opening run. We have some really great bands.”

Epstein says fans of NRBQ from around the country are already booking rooms at the hotel in order to see the eclectic band on July 27. However, he acknowledges that booking bands will be harder this time without a radio partner like WLIR to promote the shows the way they did at the original My Father’s Place.

“It’s a different world,” says Denis McNamara, who was WLIR’s program director when it would regularly broadcast shows from My Father’s Place. “But these are good people putting it together … And Eppy is a star. He is always looking to find new artists and trying to build a community of music-loving people.”

McNamara says the days at the original My Father’s Place will be hard to duplicate. “There were so many remarkable memories,” he says. “We helped The Police bring in their own amplifiers. We saw Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood there.”

However, McNamara says he hopes the new My Father’s Place succeeds. “I hope they can bring back that dynamic of ‘anyone can be there and anything can happen’,” he says. “It can only be good for Long Island, for our culture and for our sanity.”

Epstein says he feels like he has to try to help.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says. “I don’t know where the club is going to lead me … But I’m going to do what I can because I’m really unhappy with the way the music industry is going.”

The radio in Epstein’s modest office in The Roslyn Hotel’s basement is regularly tuned to BBC Radio 6 so that Epstein can hear the new music DJ Steve Lamacq is playing. He worries that many of the bands he likes will break up because they won’t be able to survive without major-label support.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” Epstein says.

He balks at the idea of a wishlist of acts for the new My Father’s Place. “I want everyone to play here,” he says, though he adds, “I would love to see The Police get back together. And I know I’m going to get that phone call one day from Keith Richards wanting to play here with his favorite blues players just for fun.”

Epstein says he believes that great concerts can save the music industry.

“I think it can all be fixed,” he says. “It’s all about finding the next great song and being able to sit and enjoy it.”


WHAT The Grand Reopening with Buster Poindexter

WHEN|WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, June 29, My Father’s Place at The Roslyn Hotel, 1221 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn

INFO $75; 516-625-6700, myfathersplace.com

A SENSE OF ‘PLACE’

Michael “Eppy” Epstein wanted the opening shows at My Father’s Place at The Roslyn Hotel to show the range of original music the venue hopes to bring to Long Island.

LOCAL HEROES Zebra (July 20) will do an “almost acoustic” show; Barnaby Bye (Aug. 4-5) already sold out the first night; Jimmy Webb (Oct. 7) will showcase some of the classic songs he has written, including “MacArthur Park” and a string of Glen Campbell hits

’80S ROCK The Blasters (Aug. 11) will bring their “American Music” back; Glenn Tilbrook (Aug. 17) will offer Squeeze classics and his solo material; Marshall Crenshaw (Sept. 15) will satisfy “Someday, Someway”

BLUES & JAZZ Roomful of Blues (July 1) bring five decades of blues styles; John Hammond (July 13) will show his “Timeless” blues; Spyro Gyra (July 21) show off their jazz fusion “Morning Dance”; McCoy Tyner (Aug. 3) may hopefully feel some inspiration from Dix Hills’ John Coltrane

REGGAE Third World (July 12) will bring some of Epstein’s beloved Jamaican reggae. — GLENN GAMBOA

Battle of the Bands entry form

Newsday’s Battle of the Bands Contest Entry 2017

Is your band ready for a battle?

Newsday is looking for the greatest band rocking Long Island, across all genres from country to metal. To get in on the competition, enter your band below before 11:59 p.m. New York time on July 11, 2017.

The following week, the contest will open for reader voting on Newsday.com — so be sure to share with your fans and encourage them to vote! A panel of music industry judges will then choose a contest winner from the Top 10 bands with the most reader votes.

The 2017 Battle of the Bands Contest champion will win an opening act slot at The Paramount in Huntington, plus a feature story by Newsday’s music critic in Newsday and on Newsday.com, plus major bragging rights as Long Island’s best band. Enter now for your shot at fame!

Fill out the Battle of the bands form here.

Billy Joel at Nassau Coliseum

Billy Joel

at Nassau Coliseum

Relive his 33 Coliseum shows, from
1977 to 2017
Photo credit: Sony Music Entertainment / Art Maillet
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.’

Review

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

[vid size=”full” align=”left” videotype=”youtube” caption=”‘Just the Way You Are'” href=”//www.youtube.com/embed/tJWM5FmZyqU” credit=”billyjoelVEVO via Youtube.com” thumb=”https://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.10670754.1437670771!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_1280/image.jpg ” popout=”no” showads=”no” ]
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SET LIST

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

Prelude

Angry Young Man

New York State of Mind

The Entertainer

Vienna

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

ENCORES:

Get It Right the First Time

Souvenir

May 28, 1979 (1 show) Charity Begins at Home
Photo credit: Kevin Mazur

May 28, 1979 (1 show)

Charity Begins at Home

This was very much, ‘I owe you. I’m very grateful that you’ve supported me and you’re coming to see me at these big arenas.’ — Billy Joel

Billy Joel had been looking for a way to give back to Long Island and received a letter from the Rehabilitation Institute in Mineola suggesting a concert. He thought it was a good idea and established the Charity Begins at Home charitable organization to handle the proceeds.

“This was very much, ‘I owe you. I’m very grateful that you’ve supported me and you’re coming to see me at these big arenas,’ ” Joel said, in June 2015, of the show.

The sold-out show, which became the first in a long series of fundraising concerts, generated money and publicity for local nonprofit groups, ranging from vocational training centers to those serving underprivileged children.

By the numbers

  • Charities helped by the concert 8
  • Record stores that participated in supporting the show 25
  • Money raised for various charities by the sold-out concert $300,000
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July 24-25, 1980 (2 shows) Glass Houses
Photo credit: Kevin Mazur

July 24-25, 1980 (2 shows)

Glass Houses

Billy Joel had sold out five shows at Madison Square Garden the month before, but he wanted to give Long Islanders a taste of the “Glass Houses” tour on their home turf. He turned two shows at the Coliseum into benefits for Charity Begins at Home — which his then-wife Elizabeth had just started to run full-time as she stepped away from managing Joel’s career — and sold those shows out as well. It was a heady time. “Glass Houses” was in its sixth week at No. 1 on the albums chart and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” had just started its two-week run atop the singles charts.

By the numbers

  • Prime ticket cost $25
  • Total number of tickets sold for both shows 32,000
  • Amount distributed to various LI charities $600,000
Set list

He did ‘The Stranger,’ ‘Honesty,’ ‘I Love You Just the Way You Are.’ That was really unbelievable to be sitting there listening to him play. — Adrian Kaplan Rosen, Syosset

‘It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me’ is the song by which many will remember the summer of 1980. — Wayne Robins, Newsday, June 25, 1980

[vid size=”full” align=”left” videotype=”youtube” caption=”‘It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me'” href=”//www.youtube.com/embed/5eAQa4MOGkE” credit=”billyjoelVEVO via Youtube.com” thumb=”https://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.10674626.1437771194!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_1280/image.jpg” popout=”no” showads=”no” ]
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SET LIST

(July 24, 1980)

You May Be Right

Only the Good Die Young

My Life

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)

Piano Man

Summer, Highland Falls

Zanzibar

She’s Got a Way

Stiletto

The Stranger

Don’t Ask Me Why

New York State of Mind

Prelude/Angry Young Man

Sleeping With the Television On

She’s Always a Woman

Just the Way You Are

Sometimes a Fantasy

Big Shot

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

ENCORES:

All for Leyna

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

Souvenir

Dec. 29, 1982 (1 show) The Nylon Curtain
Photo credit: Kevin Mazur

Dec. 29, 1982 (1 show)

The Nylon Curtain

The concert was being filmed for Joel’s first concert special, “Live from Long Island,” which aired on HBO in 1983. That meant the house lights were up for nearly the entire concert, cameras were zooming around and the audience was filled with VIPs.

“Everyone I ever knew in my whole life is here,” joked Joel.

He also introduced a lot of new material from his album “The Nylon Curtain,” which arrived only a few months earlier, creating an unusual flow to the Coliseum concert.

Set list [vid size=”full” align=”left” videotype=”youtube” caption=”‘Big Shot’ live at the Coliseum, 1982″ href=”//www.youtube.com/embed/3njdyDAUuVw” credit=”Billy Joel via Youtube.com” thumb=”https://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.10674454.1437766381!/httpImage/image.png_gen/derivatives/display_1004/image.png ” popout=”no” showads=”no” ]

By the numbers

  • Peak position of “The Nylon Curtain” on the album charts 7
  • Length of concert that aired on HBO, in minutes 80
  • Actual length of concert, in minutes 150
  • Copies of “The Nylon Curtain” sold 2 million
  • Band members who toast the crowd with a bottle of white and a bottle of red during “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” 4

Review

Wednesday’s performance was peculiar. The mood of the nearly two-and-a-half-hour show was dictated not by the band and not by the audience, but by the camera lights that never went dim. … The benign aura of mutual self-congratulation between Joel and his hometown audience soon became one of self-consciousness. … The older songs were received with more enthusiasm. The band performed with quiet confidence, yet sounded completely more restrained than it is capable of being. — Wayne Robins, Newsday, Dec. 31, 1982

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SET LIST

Allentown

My Life

Prelude/Angry Young Man

Piano Man

The Stranger

Scandinavian Skies

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)

Pressure

Until the Night

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

Just the Way You Are

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

Sometimes a Fantasy

Big Shot

You May Be Right

ENCORES:

Only the Good Die Young

Souvenir

Dec. 21 & 31, 1989 (2 shows) Storm Front
Photo credit: Newsday / John Keating

Dec. 21 & 31, 1989 (2 shows)

Storm Front

Inspired by a visit with Sean Lennon, who worried about the state of the world in 1989, Joel wrote “We Didn’t Start the Fire” to chronicle what he had seen and survived in his lifetime. He may not have started “the fire,” but one had certainly been lit in him in terms of social causes. In addition to “Fire,” Joel focused on the plight of Long Island’s baymen in “The Downeaster ‘Alexa'” both on the “Storm Front” album and in his concerts.

By the numbers

  • Cost of a ticket $22.50
  • Amount brokers were charging for prime seats $500
  • Copies of “Storm Front” sold 4 million
  • Tickets confiscated from scalpers by police and donated to Little Flower Children’s Services 28
[vid size=”full” align=”left” videotype=”youtube” caption=”‘We Didn’t Start the Fire'” href=”//www.youtube.com/embed/eFTLKWw542g” credit=”billyjoelVEVO via Youtube.com” thumb=”https://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.10682660.1438050821!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_1280/image.jpg” popout=”no” showads=”no” ]
Set list

Review

In Joel’s guileless good humor, the sentimentality of his records — toward the Long Island fishermen, toward a stylized myth of tight-trousered adolescence, or that New York state of mind — came off as genuine affection. Even the deliberate mush-headedness of “Still Rock ‘n Roll to Me” and “You May Be Right” became direct and inspiring.

There is a line somewhere between self-indulgence and just playing around, and Joel, even at his hammiest, kept to the right side of it. … He emanated corniness like gamma rays. He boxed with his microphone stand, held himself as if nailed to the cross, and even assumed the sprinter’s starting position atop his black baby grand. And for some unfathomable reason, he used smoke machines almost continuously throughout the show. But in his hometown, it all played as good-natured hucksterism; we were always in on the fun. Joel was Buster Poindexter without the hip distancing.

And that was, for all the surprisingly good music, the most striking thing about the evening. It was rare to see a star of his stature be so unguarded onstage. What I missed most in the Rolling Stones — some sense of self, a rapport with the audience — Joel delivered in spades. — John Leland, Newsday, Dec. 23, 1989

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SET LIST

(Dec. 21, 1989)

Storm Front

Allentown

Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)

Prelude/Angry Young Man

New York State of Mind

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

The Downeaster Alexa

Goodnight Saigon

I Go to Extremes

Pressure

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Leningrad

An Innocent Man

Big Man on Mulberry Street

Shameless

We Didn’t Start the Fire

Uptown Girl

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

You May Be Right

Only the Good Die Young

A Matter of Trust

Big Shot

Keeping the Faith

Piano Man

December 1993-March 1994 (7 shows) River of Dreams
Photo credit: Newsday / John Keating

December 1993-March 1994 (7 shows)

River of Dreams

Though it was an impressive tour for an album that debuted at No. 1, the “River of Dreams” run at Nassau Coliseum — Dec. 29 and 31, 1993; Jan. 2, 4, 6, 8 and March 6, 1994 — was bittersweet.

For opening night, Joel missed daughter Alexa’s eighth birthday party, though he did lead the crowd in a round of “Happy Birthday” that he played for her when he got home. He also dedicated “We Didn’t Start the Fire” to his friend, bassist Howie Blauvelt, who died earlier in the year. At the New Year’s Eve show, Joel fell off the piano and hit his head, forcing him to head to the Garden City Hotel after the show rather than making the long drive out to his then-home in East Hampton.

By the numbers

  • Weeks “River of Dreams” spent at No. 1 on the albums chart 3
  • Number of minutes in the concert 150
  • Attendance for each show 17,847
  • Copies of “River of Dreams” sold 5 million
Set list [vid size=”full” align=”left” videotype=”youtube” caption=”‘All About Soul'” href=”//www.youtube.com/embed/YSvomXlbTUM” credit=”billyjoelVEVO via Youtube.com” thumb=”https://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.10671017.1437674764!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_1280/image.jpg ” popout=”no” showads=”no” ]

Review

Leave the headsets and production numbers to Janet Jackson and Madonna. These days, in his current state of grace, Billy Joel could probably perform with just a piano and no one would be disappointed — certainly not the devoted crowd that braved the snow to pack Nassau Coliseum Wednesday.

Where other big-league performers strive to create showy illusion loaded with unattainable glamour, Billy Joel still pounds ’em out here on Earth, adding only the self-deprecating flash that acknowledges itself. When he does Elvis Presley arm-and-leg gestures or attempts Joe Tex tricks with the mike stand, Joel isn’t trying to be anything but a humble fan enjoying the reference. And though sincerity, spontaneity and awareness of an audience as people rather than demographic dollar signs are not universal values among arena performers, Billy Joel remains a flesh-and-blood guy who can actually share what’s on his mind with his fans between — and during — songs.

Beginning a long homestand with a show that he announced was being recorded, Joel was the homecoming king, an avuncular hero returning from his travels, a fond nostalgist bringing old songs to old friends. — Ira Robbins, Newsday, Dec. 31, 1993

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SET LIST

(Dec. 29, 1993)

No Man’s Land

Pressure

New York State of Mind

River of Dreams

Prelude/Angry Young Man

The Ballad of Billy the Kid

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

My Life

Vienna

I Go to Extremes

An Innocent Man

The Downeaster Alexa

Goodnight Saigon

We Didn’t Start the Fire

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

You May Be Right

Only the Good Die Young

Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)

Keeping the Faith

Piano Man

January-May 1998 (9 shows) Greatest Hits: Vol. III
Photo credit: Newsday / J. Michael Dombroski

January-May 1998 (9 shows)

Greatest Hits: Vol. III

“That was kind of a victory lap,” Joel says of his “Greatest Hits: Vol. III” tour ending at the Coliseum in 1998 with a record-setting nine-show run (Jan. 29; Feb. 2, 9, 11, 14, 16; April 30; and May 1, 4, 1998). It had been five years since he had decided to stop recording popular music, following the “River of Dreams” album in 1993. His popularity, though, was still growing through touring and the release of three greatest-hits collections. Joel’s greatest-hits albums, with 23 million copies sold, are the third-biggest-selling albums in history, behind only Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and The Eagles’ “Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975.”

“There was all this talk of ‘Where are we going to do this?’ ” says Joel, whose name hung in the rafters of the Coliseum following the record-setting run, alongside banners celebrating the Stanley Cup-winning Islanders teams. “We’re doing it at home. The momentum was there. The demand was there. I thought, ‘Really? They want us to play that many times? We can sell that many tickets? OK.’ It felt good.”

The final show of that tour — on May 4, 1998 — was the last time Joel played the Coliseum by himself.

By the numbers

  • Musicians with a banner in Nassau Coliseum before Joel on this tour 0
  • Height of Joel’s banner, in feet 15
  • Ticket price $37.50
  • Total gross for “Greatest Hits: Vol. III” tour $47 million
  • People who saw the tour 1.1 million
Set list

Review

There was no doubt that he reveled in being on his native Long Island, where he was kicking off a string of homecoming shows as part of a Northeast tour. He cracked enough jokes about his early years here to give the show the air of a high school reunion, bantering about skipping school to hang out at Jones Beach — “under the tunnel at Parking Field Four” — and cruising Hempstead Turnpike in a futile quest for women. At one point, he grabbed the hand of a man in the front row and exclaimed: “I grew up across the street from this [expletive] guy!”

The sold-out crowd, which included many baby boomers with their children in tow, reveled back. By the time Joel reached his third song, the defiant “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” the entire arena was chanting the lyrics along with him. Joel was the man who had moved out; but he’d returned to the fold with tales to share with those who’d never left. — Letta Tayler, Newsday, Jan. 31, 1998

[vid size=”full” align=”left” videotype=”youtube” caption=”‘The Downeaster Alexa'” href=”//www.youtube.com/embed/LVlDSzbrH5M” credit=”BillyJoelVEVO via Youtube.com” thumb=”https://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.10682759.1438054258!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/display_1004/image.jpg” popout=”no” showads=”no” ]
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SET LIST

(Jan. 29, 1998)

Prelude/Angry Young Man

Allentown

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)

Just the Way You Are

Stiletto

Big Man on Mulberry Street

The Downeaster Alexa

Pressure

All About Soul

The Longest Time

My Life

Summer, Highland Falls<

I Go to Extremes

Everybody Has a Dream

New York State of Mind

Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)

River of Dreams

We Didn’t Start the Fire

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

Only the Good Die Young

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)

Captain Jack

You May Be Right

Piano Man

Sept. 25 & 27, Oct. 11 & 13, 2002 (4 shows) Face2Face
Photo credit: AP / Ed Betz

Sept. 25 & 27, Oct. 11 & 13, 2002 (4 shows)

Face2Face

These were the shows at the Coliseum that solidified Billy Joel’s comeback. In the months leading up to this tour with Elton John, Joel had dealt publicly with the worst problems of his career. He had gone through a well-publicized stint in rehab and high-profile traffic accidents, as well as a respiratory infection that had some questioning his ability to perform.

On this tour, he put those issues behind him and started to have fun again. Years later, Joel remembers joking around with John, telling him, “You know I grew up about 15 minutes from here.” He laughs as he recalls John saying, “Yes, I threw up about 15 minutes from here.”

“I thought it was hysterical,” Joel says. “I couldn’t stop laughing the whole night.”

By the numbers

  • Year-end ranking of Joel and John in Billboard’s top-grossing tours 3
  • No. 1 songs in the set 4
  • Cost of prime ticket $175
  • Length of show, in minutes 210
  • Total gross for 2002 Face2Face tour $66 million
Set list

Review

Fear not, Billy Joel fans. The Piano Man is doing just fine.

At any given moment in the 3 ½-hour ‘Face to Face Tour’ extravaganza, the 53-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer from Hicksville could be found riding his piano stool like a bucking bronco, step-dancing atop his baby grand like he was Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, or swinging between the pianos like they were the parallel bars and he wanted a perfect 10 from the East German judge.

Or maybe he just wanted a perfect 10 from his fans.

— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday, Sept. 26, 2002 (reviewing the Madison Square Garden show)

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SET LIST

(Sept. 25, 2002)

JOEL & JOHN:

Your Song / Just the Way You Are / Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

JOHN SET:

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Philadelphia Freedom

I Want Love

Rocket Man

Take Me to the Pilot

Have Mercy on the Criminal

Tiny Dancer

This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore

I’m Still Standing

Crocodile Rock

JOEL SET:

Prelude/Angry Young Man

Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)

Allentown

The Downeaster Alexa

Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)

River of Dreams

Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)

New York State of Mind

I Go to Extremes

It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me

Only the Good Die Young

JOEL & JOHN:

My Life

The Bitch Is Back

You May be Right

Bennie and the Jets

A Hard Day’s Night

Great Balls of Fire

ENCORES:

Candle in the Wind

Piano Man

Aug. 4, 2015 (1 show) Nassau Coliseum closer
Photo credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Aug. 4, 2015 (1 show)

Nassau Coliseum closer

Long Island said goodbye to the Old Barn Tuesday night, as Billy Joel played his 32nd — and final — show at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Of course, the evening was more than just a celebration of the Hicksville native, playing his first solo show here in 17 years. It was a raucous, rowdy love-in tinged with sadness for the soon-to-be-renovated arena — as well as for its beloved Islanders, who are heading west to Brooklyn.

The Coliseum, which has hosted music royalty from Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash to the Grateful Dead in its 43-year life, will be prepped for a $261 million renovation starting Wednesday, with partial demolition set to begin at the end of the month.

“If they don’t name a road after me, that’s fine. I’d rather be alive.” — Billy Joel, talking to the crowd about a proposal to rename a quarter-mile stretch of Route 107 in Hicksville.

There are not enough words to describe [how great the show was]. – Joel Weisinger of Mount Sinai, who attended with wife Kathleen and son Corey

Billy being Billy. – Paul Caracciolo, on the highpoint of the concert.

By the numbers

  • Minutes the show took to sell out 5
  • Average ticket price $89.50
  • Number of times Joel has played the Coliseum, including final show 32
  • Estimated cost of Coliseum renovation $261 million
Set list [vid size=”full” align=”left” videotype=”brightcove” caption=”Billy Joel bids farewell to Nassau Coliseum” href=”08042015_Matt_billy_joel_last_concert_nassau_coliseum_wrapup_miller_ware_brightman” credit=”Newsday Staff and Nassau Coliseum” thumb=”https://cdn.newsday.com/polopoly_fs/1.10710512.1438788391!/httpImage/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/landscape_1280/image.JPG” popout=”no” showads=”no” ]

Long Islanders’ Billy Joel memories

I first saw Billy Joel in February 1972 in the city where he was third billing after Captain Beefheart. … My date gave me his Cold Spring Harbor album before it was even released. I attended concerts at CWP, Nassau Coliseum and MSG. I was at the last play at Shea and would love to go to the last one at Nassau. Will always love my Billy. — Lin Fritz Katz, via Facebook

I was hanging out at the Old Curiosity Shoppe having lunch before work, and Billy walks in and orders a beer, then orders two more for myself and the bartender. Well one turned to two… then three. I ended up calling in sick and had a great afternoon talking with him. — Kenneth Ponsiek, via Facebook

I lived in East Hampton in the ’80s and ’90s. When Alexa Ray was a little girl, I would from time to time see Billy coming out of the North Main Street IGA. He would go in to get those long strips of lollipops for Alexa. It always struck me as so sweet, seeing her so happy and Billy loving the moment. — Lisa Waygood, via Facebook

Review

Billy Joel’s final show at the original Nassau Coliseum was one for the ages, a three-hour marathon thrill-ride that touched on nearly every part of his career, as well as the arena’s 43-year history.


Joel craftily inserted the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” into his “River of Dreams,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” into a roaring “You May Be Right” – nods to Paul McCartney, who played the Coliseum several times, as well as Zeppelin, who was one of the arena’s first big rock concerts. But the true skill came in the way the Hicksville native built the show specifically for a Long Island crowd – whether he was talking about fights he had in a Northport restaurant or his first gig at Holy Family Church in Hicksville or his decision to play “Captain Jack,” a song normally reserved for his Philadelphia concerts, because it enable Joel to sing about taking you to “your special island.”

The unpredictability of the setlist made it feel like an intimate club show where the performer knows pretty much everyone in the club rather than a massive arena concert. Only at the Coliseum would an early combination of the jazzy “Zanzibar” and the soaring “Summer, Highland Falls” make sense – a way for Joel to telegraph within the first five songs that this was going to be a unique evening.

This was a show by (mostly) Long Islanders for Long Islanders to celebrate the area — and, apparently, to get fans to cheer “Let’s go Islanders!” a lot.

Joel even called his special guest Paul Simon “a fellow Long Islander,” a distinction Long Islanders understand about the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer from Queens. Their connection was delightfully deep, born out of a long-term friendship rather than music collaboration, which Simon pointed out did not exist outside a jokey version of “Silver Bells” they did with Steve Martin for “Saturday Night Live” one year. It was tender during “Homeward Bound,” but truly came to life during “Late in the Evening,” where Joel had a great piano solo and his band, especially the horn secton of Mark Rivera, Carl Fischer and Crystal Taliefero, got to stretch and show off a bit.

After Simon and “King of Queens” star Kevin James made their appearances, Joel got the chance to relax a bit and show off some as well. He gave an emotional performance of “Goodnight Saigon,” punctuated by military personnel filling the stage to sing the chorus with him as the crowd chanted “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” He offered a nice bit of misdirection starting off “My Life” with a bit of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” And before leading the sing-along of “Piano Man,” Joel seemed to shake off a bit of nerves and kid around by playing a bit of Stephen Foster’s “Old Folks at Home.”

“Home” was a big topic Tuesday night. Yes, Joel gave the “Hard Day’s Night” line, “When I’m home, everything seems to be right” a little extra zing. But it went deeper than that. Throughout his career, Joel has chronicled his home – whether it’s the Brenda & Eddies he grew up with in Hicksville in “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” or the baymen of the East End in “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’.”

Joel could tell that the capacity crowd at the Coliseum Tuesday night was on edge. (All the booing for Gov. Andrew Cuomo was probably a good hint.) They were angry about losing the Islanders and the Coliseum, about losing part of their home.

Sure, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum will be back in December 2016, after a $261 million renovation. There will be countless improvements – hopefully including an air conditioning system that doesn’t require sweating concertgoers to fan each other for relief like they did Tuesday night. It will, no doubt, be better, but it won’t be the same. It won’t be The Barn. It won’t be home.

Joel’s show offered concertgoers one more memory at The Barn. He offered them plenty of moments to hang on to — from his flouncy, hands-on-hips delivery of “Uptown Girl” to the surprising release of his inner Robert Plant during “Rock and Roll” matched nicely by guitarist Tommy Byrnes unleashing his inner Jimmy Page. Joel offered them consolation in a time of upsetting change. He left them feeling all right. — Glenn Gamboa, Newsday, Aug. 5, 2015

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SET LIST

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)

Zanzibar

Summer, Highland Falls

Everybody Loves You Now

No Man’s Land

Just the Way You Are

The Entertainer

I Do/The Lion Sleeps Tonight/Still of the Night

The Longest Time

Downeaster Alexa

Me and Julio (with Paul Simon)

Homeward Bound (with Paul Simon)

Late in the Evening (with Paul Simon)

Ballad of Billy the Kid

New York State of Mind

Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)

Until the Night

Allentown

Goodnight Saigon

Keeping the Faith

She’s Always a Woman

My Life

Captain Jack

I’ve Loved These Days

River of Dreams

Hard Days Night

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

Piano Man

ENCORES

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

Uptown Girl

Big Shot

You May Be Right

Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin cover)

Only the Good Die Young

April 5, 2017 (1 SHOW) Nassau Coliseum Opener
Photo credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

April 5, 2017 (1 SHOW)

Nassau Coliseum Opener

After undergoing a $165-million renovation, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum reopened on April 5, 2017, as the NYCB Live’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. And who better to take the stage first at the aluminum-finned venue with a hip, understated interior than the (piano) man who closed it 20 months earlier?

Billy Joel, who jokingly compared the new digs’ shiny new exterior to a “Jiffy Pop bag,” was joined onstage by a few surprise guests, including fellow Long Islanders Joan Jett and Kevin James. He also sang an LI-themed set that included gems like “No Man’s Land” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” which turned into a singalong.

The 2-hour, 50-minute show marked Joel’s 33rd sold-out concert at the Coliseum and, fittingly, he played 33 songs.



Review

Billy Joel ushered in the new, aluminum-finned era of the renovated Nassau Coliseum Wednesday night with a powerful set filled with Long Island references.

“We kind of have an attitude here,” Joel said, introducing the hard-rocking “No Man’s Land,” with lyrics written for Long Island that are still timely, right down to the cocaine bust news in the morning’s paper.

Joel’s concert was the first after the $165 million, 20-month renovation of the NYCB Live’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, and he gave its sound high marks as he rolled through songs he rarely plays anywhere else — like “The Downeaster ‘Alexa,’ ” about the plight of Long Island’s baymen. For “Goodnight Saigon,” Joel filled the stage with military veterans, who were greeted with a huge ovation and chants of “U-S-A!”

“Lest we forget that this is the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum,” Joel said as the group left the

Even Joel’s surprise guests had Long Island roots. Long Beach’s Joan Jett was commanding on “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Stony Brook’s Kevin James and his “King of Queens” “wife,” Leah Remini, did an interpretive dance to “She’s Got a Way,” ending with James’ passionate embrace of a hoagie.

When the singer paid tribute to the late Ray Charles with “What a Wonderful World,” Joel turned it into a gorgeous duet with Baldwin’s Carl Fischer delivering Louis Armstrong’s trumpet parts.

The two-hour, 50-minute show was remarkably well-planned. Joel played 33 songs to commemorate the 33 times he has now played The Coliseum, which was the first arena he ever played 40 years ago.

Throughout the show, Joel was in fine voice, taking more vocal chances than usual in songs like “New York State of Mind,” where he opted for a bluesier take. He was also in fine spirits, delivering his best Elvis Presley sneer during “It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me” and a bit of a Bob Dylan impression to close out “Only the Good Die Young.”

It was clear early on that Joel was among his people when he offered them a choice. They could either hear “Just the Way You Are,” his Grammy-winning hit, or “Vienna,” the deeply personal ballad also from “The Stranger.” The crowd roared to hear “Vienna” and a smiling Joel began the song without pause.

This was a happier Joel show than the bittersweet one in 2015 that closed the first chapter of the Coliseum. There were jokes about paying too much for tickets, especially those in the back of the new arena, or as Joel referred to it, “Suffolk County.” But there was also plenty of hope and confidence in Mike DelGuidice’s poignant version of “Nessun Dorma.” And even more joy in the way “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” became a sing-along, as Long Islanders see themselves in Brenda and Eddie and build new memories at the new Nassau Coliseum like they did at the Parkway Diner.



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SET LIST

1. Miami 2017

2. Pressure

3. All for Leyna

4. Vienna

5. The Entertainer

6. No Man’s Land

7. Goodnight Saigon

8. Everybody Loves You Now

9. The Downeaster Alexa

10. Zanzibar

11. New York State of Mind

12. Movin’ Out

13. She’s Got a Way

14. Allentown

15. My Life

16. Sleeping With the Television

17. She’s Always a Woman

18. I Hate Myself for Loving You (with Joan Jett)

19. I Love Rock ‘N Roll (with Joan Jett)

20. Sometimes a Fantasy

21. What a Wonderful World

22. The River of Dreams

23. Nessun Dorma

24. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

25. Piano Man

Encore

1. We Didn’t Start the Fire

2. Uptown Girl

3. It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me

4. Big Shot

5. Only the Good Die Young

6. You May Be Right

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