Now Hear This: Billy Joel Plays a Surprise Show for 1,600 People

Chuck Klosterman wrote a really terrific article about Billy Joel years ago that carefully dissected what lurked beneath his New York City troubadour persona. Through a little dime-store psychoanalysis, it was actually pretty easy, the piece posited, to figure out what has always driven Joel, given that he’s worn his wants, needs, and insecurities on his sleeve for years. Klosterman’s conclusion was that, despite his reputation for being “uncool,” Joel’s consistently displayed all the characteristics of a troubled artist.

That’s a fine bit of rock journalism, but the reality is no more complicated than this: While he’s often overlooked or even ridiculed whenever the conclave of musical intelligentsia issues its official declaration of what’s “important” and what isn’t in rock, in the 11 year period between 1971 and 1982, Billy Joel released more spectacular songs than most current bands or artists ever will. In fact, he’s been been writing and playing for so long, with so much memorable material that’s gone under-the-radar between the hits, that it’s easy to forget just how talented the man is.

As Rolling Stone puts it:

Joel was never a critical favorite during his heyday, and the endless criticism must have played at least a small role in his decision to stop releasing pop songs twenty years ago. But with each passing year, love for the man seems to grow, and it’s becoming harder and harder to remember a time when the tastemakers deemed him uncool. Simply put, he’s outlasted the haters, and (to steal a line from Matt Stone in the Rush documentary Beyond the Lighted Stage) you gotta give it up to him now, or you’re just being a dickhead.

Last night, Billy Joel performed his first full headlining gig since 2009, at a surprise benefit for Long Island Cares at the 1,600-seat Paramount Theater in Huntington. The show was announced on Tuesday morning and sold out within seconds, with scalpers charging upwards of four grand for tickets over the next 36 hours. Joel played many of his hits, but he also broke out a lot of material he hasn’t done live in years or hasn’t done live ever, including deep tracks from 1982’s The Nylon Curtain (his most experimental and most underrated record).

One of those tracks was this, an absolute favorite of mine — She’s Right On Time.

And he played this song, another favorite, and dedicated it to those on Long Island still dealing with the aftermath of Sandy. It’s Miami 2017.

Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.