My family members kept asking me what I’d like to do for my 70th birthday in late December. Honestly, I was not excited about having a big party or even an expensive dinner out. We were very busy during the holidays so I was in the mood for something more low key. In the fall I had mentioned to my husband that I wouldn’t mind seeing Billy Joel perform in Madison Square Garden at one of the monthly concerts he has been offering for about a year.
My husband surprised me for my birthday with tickets to the concert which we attended last week. It was a Love Fest! The house was packed, and that’s saying something because Madison Square Garden is HUGE (to borrow a word often overused in today’s political world). Of course, about half of the attendees were as old as my husband and I. Billy Joel was a favorite songwriter/singer locally on Long Island, then nationally, throughout the same decades when we were “coming of age.”
Although there were many boomers in attendance, it did not seem like a geriatric concert at all. The crowd looked and felt younger than its actual age. Many, like us, had brought along our children and other family members so there was a wonderful age and gender mix.
As soon as Joel appeared on stage the crowd let out a deafening roar of welcome. He conjures up a time when songwriters wrote about relationships with very “catchy” lyrics. His songs are also autobiographical, so a BJ concert is pretty much a journey through his life and our own, with all its ups and downs. And he always, always plays his signature song, “Piano Man,” written about a time he spent playing in a bar in nearby Oyster Bay.
I think much of his appeal is due to the fact that he is a local boy who, through talent and determination, became a big star but never let stardom define who he is. He’s had several marriages, the most famous one to Christie Brinkley, which ended in divorce but they remain friends.
He’s gone on alcoholic binges and almost killed himself on his motorcycle.
He has identified with locals and their struggles such as the Baymen of LI, men who fish for a living and whose livelihood has been in jeopardy.
His on-stage presence is very engaging and his banter with the audience is very funny and intimate. In other words…he’s a real person.
But most amazing is his talent. He is a consummate musician. Throughout the show, between songs, he doodled on the keyboard playing all kinds of music. Music just oozes from his soul, through his fingers, and onto the keyboard. His lyrics touch the hearts of so many; throughout the show we were surrounded by people who knew all the words to all his songs and sang along with him.
I an not a concert junkie. However, at moments during the concert, tears of joy trickled down my cheeks. There was so much love and happiness in the arena that I could feel reverberating throughout my body. It was a wonderful way to celebrate my 70th…with Billy Joel and over 20,000 other New Yorkers!