When I was a kid in the seventies, we had a pretty nice-sized vinyl collection thanks to a friend of my dad’s who owned a record store and shared lots of the albums that he no longer needed. The square covers always had a 1/2-inch notch cut out of the top and a sticker that said “For Promotional Use Only: Not for Resale”. These days I’d have to sit and think about which albums were in our collection in order to talk about them except for two standouts, “The Jacksons” and this one, Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”:
When I was six and seven, that album cover both intrigued and terrified me. To be honest, while I don’t remember listening to it very often–because I favored The Jacksons–the cover image has stuck with me for more than forty years.
We moved to Texas in 1979 and lived at the hotel my dad managed for a while until our house was built and ready to inhabit. I became friends with some of the neighborhood kids and while music had always been in the background of my life, 1980 was when I first connected with peers over it. Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses” was a major player (and was majorly played) during that time.
“An Innocent Man” was the album that marked my years in high school. I was fascinated with the pairing of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, and the videos he made during that time are burned in my brain.
Jim and I played “Storm Front” incessantly in the early years of our marriage, and “River of Dreams” was a favorite when our firstborn was a baby.
All of this history between me and Billy Joel, a brilliant musical artist I’ve never met personally, is exactly why, when he opened last night’s concert at Wrigley Field with “Prelude/Angry Young Man”, tears sprang from my eyes at the explosive sound of the first few notes. My reaction caught me completely off-guard in the best way and it was at that moment that while I have never considered myself to be a Billy Joel Superfan, he and I go way back and his music really does hold a special place in my heart.
I noted that the average age of Billy Joel’s audience is about twenty-five years older than that of the audience at the Pitbull concert I attended with the same date (my friend Samantha) last week. Sidenote: Samantha and I were laughing at a guy a few rows down for his miming of the song lyrics and awkward dancing, but when we stood for the encore I realized there’s really no way to dance to Billy Joel’s music without looking (and feeling) incredibly awkward, so I’m sending apologies to that guy, wherever he is.
Billy Joel had no opening act last night and played for approximately two and a half hours: twenty-two songs and THEN a six-song encore. Had time (and his endurance) been unlimited, he could have kept the sold-out crowd entertained for another ten or twelve hours; there were so many of his hits he didn’t and couldn’t perform because none of us had all night, including the Wrigleyville neighborhood who count on Wrigley Field to enforce the 11:00pm curfew on the acts that play there.
Samantha and I met our friends Jen and George for dinner before the concert and Jen asked us to name our favorite concert ever. I gave her two (Foo Fighters and Adam Ant) and after Samantha and I were jogging down the ramps at Wrigley trying to beat the post-show crowds out (we did!), we talked about how the “Favorite concert ever” question is so hard to answer. When you’re like me and enjoy music across most genres, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. For me, Foo Fighters is a favorite because Dave Grohl is a beast and they rocked Wrigley hard last summer in a fun show that seemed personal and interactive even though it was a sold out crowd of more than 40,000. Adam Ant is a favorite because of how I swooned hard over him throughout my impressionable high school years (read about my obsession and concert experience in a post I wrote earlier this year for Midlive Mixtape) and it meant the world to see him thirty years later. And now, Billy Joel is (and will always be) a favorite because his was the concert of my lifetime, a live rendering of the soundtrack of my years on earth.