Model Christie Brinkley was glad she had a video camera to capture her husband Billy Joel's concert in Worcester, Mass., last December.
Someday, daughter Alexa can savor the moment when Daddy pounded so furiously on the piano during the song "I Go To Extremes" that some of the keys shattered.See all the noisy people scramble for the keys . . . scramble, scramble, scramble.
Watch Daddy pound. Pound, pound, pound.
Watch Daddy go to extremes. . . . Go Daddy, Go.
Local fans might not be so lucky to take home piano remnants from the upcoming Billy Joel concert in the Salt Palace on Sunday, Nov. 11, but you can be sure they'll be treated to a rocking, foot-thumping evening they can replay in their memories time and time again.
Ask any of the 15,000 devotees who packed the Marriott Center in 1986, the last time Joel came to town.
A quadruple encore??? What more is there to say?
So, just who is this tough-yet-tender storyteller whom kids and their baby-boomer parents will unblinkingly pay $25 to see in concert?
He's a product of post-war America . . . and his story is familiar.
William Martin Joel was born in the Bronx, New York City, in 1949. Soon after, his father left the family and Mrs. Joel was left to raise Billy and his sister on her meager secretarial salary. Joel credits his preoccupation with music and reading partly to the fact that his mother never had the money to repair their broken television; thus, other ways of amusement replaced the tube.
Young William showed an intense interest in Mozart at the age of 4, and often entertained the family with boogie Beethoven arrangements. Somehow the money was found for classical music lessons from a Hofstra University professor for the next 12 years. Growing up in Hicksville, Long Island, and nearby Leavittown ("the Brooklyn of the suburbs"), teenage Joel spent his spare time hanging out with a local street gang, and with bantam-weight boxing.
By the 1960s, Joel was beginning to be influenced by soul-singer James Brown and the new British invaders, the Beatles. A self-proclaimed "melody freak," Joel once told an interviewer, "If there's anybody I've modeled myself after, it's Paul McCartney."
Ray Charles (with whom he later recorded "Baby Grand") and various Motown artists played into Joel's developing style.
By age 16, his playing piano for a local bar band called the Hassles helped subsidize the Leavittown mortgage payments. He would later supplement his income by house painting, dredging oysters from Long Island Sound and writing music reviews for a magazine.
Fast-forwarding through the next several years, we find an older, more world-wise Joel playing piano and singing in a Los Angeles cocktail lounge under the name of Bill Martin. The previous years had presented him numerous legal recording nightmares and red tape. Thus the escape to the West Coast, where he could write music and perform.
In 1973, after a talent agent encouraged him to record, Martin/Joel released an album. The thinly-disguised autobiographical ballad, "Piano Man," caused him to be typed with Harry Chapin as a storyteller.
In 1974, his followup album with single "The Entertainer," a caustic view of the modern music business, led Joel to Cashbox magazine's Best Male Vocalist award.
Joel's music has a strong rock energy, yet encompasses the sophistication of jazz. With catchy East Coast images and street-smart phrases, Joel captures our romantic notions with a charismatic intensity. He has been touted as a consummate entertainer.
Familiar themes thread throughout his 16 years of recording. Recurrent strands address the the human condition: alienation, vulnerability, truth, honesty and keeping one's faith with humanity.
A critic once described a Billy Joel concert as a "giant cocktail lounge of the soul," with his audiences sharing "an intimate look into his raspy-edged view of life."
Whatever the draw, Billy Joel is guaranteed to ignite. He might dispute the fact by wryly saying, "We Didn't Start The Fire."
Tickets for "An Evening with Billy Joel," at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, in the Salt Palace are still available for $23.50 (plus service charge) at all Smith'sTix locations and the Salt Palace box office.