Fact: If I could see any artist in concert, living or dead, it would be Billy Joel.
Of course I love the Piano Man because of “Piano Man,” and the number of times I’ve drunkenly circled up with friends at the Backer or to close out a wedding and belted out the words. For me, though, love for Billy Joel goes back to middle school, taking piano lessons from my cool new coach who was all about pop music for the first time in my performance history. Instead of Brahms and Beethoven, we played new Broadway hits and Five for Fighting and, one day, he brought out the giant, two-volume “Billy Joel Complete” collection. I knew maybe five songs…”Uptown Girl” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and of course “Piano Man,” plus “Only the Good Die Young” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” Little did I know, I was about to fall in love.
I did, and quickly played my way through a solid chunk of the book, working to come as close to perfecting “Prelude/Angry Young Man” as possible, getting the shivers over “Summer, Highland Falls,” and hoping for a love life that would someday measure up to “She’s Got A Way.” My mom bought me “Turnstiles” on CD that afternoon, and I listened to it on repeat for weeks. “Cold Spring Harbor” was my next stop, and from there on out, it was down the rabbit hole for me.
I dream of someday seeing “Moving Out” on Broadway tour, and know that I’ll likely never see the man himself in action live. If I could go to any of his concerts though, I think I’d pick Live at Shea. He opened with “Prelude,” he played all my faves, and the recordings, which I regularly Spotify, are just fantastic.
Until someone invents a time machine and gets me back to his golden era of performing with enough cash for a ticket, I’ll be hanging out at the piano occasionally with that well-loved anthology or driving down the highway belting out every word. The Piano Man is my favorite.