Billy Joel Triumphs in Return to the Garden

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Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden, Nov. 5, 2021

It’s a venue that he has played well over 100 times. But when Billy Joel resumed his monthly Madison Square Garden residency last night (November 5, 2021), it marked the first time that he had performed there since Feb. 20, 2020. Weeks after that concert took place more than 20 months’ earlier, venues around the country – and the world – shut down due to the pandemic.

On this Friday night, the regular crowd shuffled in to see the Piano Man return triumphantly to his home away from home for a set that masterfully spanned his career. The Joel canon is so vast that even with a performance that spanned 25 songs, such favorites as “Just the Way You Are,” “The Stranger,” and “Tell Her About It” were omitted. The sold-out Garden crowd didn’t seem to mind. They were thrilled to see the classic rock legend back in New York City.

The evening began, aptly, with “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).”

Watch Joel perform “My Life” with a brief intro of “Ode to Joy”

After playing three songs, Joel exclaimed, “Good evening, New York City!” as the crowd roared. Just before performing “New York State of Mind,” he pointed out the helmet of a firefighter, atop his piano, from 9/11, twenty years’ earlier.

Joel began his monthly residency at the Garden in January 2014. His July 18, 2018 concert was his 100th all-time performance at the Garden, dating back to his first concert there in December 1978.

Before the Nov. 2021 concert, he was asked by the Daily News whether he’s considered retiring from the stage. “I’ve talked to other artists about it,” he said. “I’ve talked to Bruce Springsteen. I’ve talked to Don Henley and said, ‘What do you think? What are you gonna do?’ And they both said the same thing: ‘What else am I gonna do? This is what I know how to do. This is what I do. That’s what I’m gonna do.’

“And they’re right,” Joel added. “This is what we do. And we’ve learned how to do it very well, and people like it, so why get another job?”

Watch him perform the underrated “All For Leyna” from Glass Houses

Related: Many guest stars have joined Joel during his residency

The audience roared with appreciation when Joel played the first notes of “Piano Man” to close the main set. And, naturally, they sang along.

Joel has just released Billy Joel – The Vinyl Collection, Vol.1, a 9-LP box set chronicling his evolution as a songwriter, performer and recording artist during his rise from obscurity to international superstardom.

Watch the evening’s final number

Tickets to Joel’s 2021-22 concert dates are available here and here.

Billy Joel, Madison Square Garden, New York, Nov. 5, 2021 Setlist
Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)
Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
My Life
New York State of Mind
Everybody Loves You Now
The Downeaster Alexa
The Entertainer
She’s Always a Woman
Don’t Ask Me Why
All For Leyna
Sometimes a Fantasy
The River of Dreams
Only the Good Die Young
Nessun dorma
Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
Piano Man

We Didn’t Start the Fire
Uptown Girl
It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
Big Shot
You May Be Right

Related: Links to 100s of current classic rock tours

Best Classic Bands Staff

1 Comment so far

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  1. Yazmatazz
    #1 Yazmatazz 7 November, 2021, 12:49

    Love the teleprompter inside the piano! Wow. First saw Billy in 1980 on the Glass Houses tour. Here’s hoping things continue to return to normal so we can keep enjoying…..:)

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