When Billy Joel stepped for the first time into the Madison Square Garden spotlight on December 14, 1978, his wandering journey as a young musician was over. His career had diverted him west through small clubs and piano lounges, but inevitably tugged him home.
When he told his tale that night at The Garden, of “takin’ a Greyhound on the Hudson River line,” that was the truth of it. The words had come to him on the bus ride home. A New York State Of Mind hung over The Garden that night for the first time, a loving bittersweet anthem for an entire city.
Tonight, Billy Joel will play his 100th show at Madison Square Garden, the celebration of a relationship that felt destined from the start, a natural coming-together of two New York icons. The performance will also mark his 54th consecutive performance since January 2014, when Joel became Madison Square Garden’s first-ever music franchise.
The bond runs deep. MSG provides the ultimate New York link to a musician, who, through his lyrics and pure energy, seems to get his breath from the city. Once each month since beginning his residency, the Piano Man positions himself at center stage and taps into a connection with his audience that feels as strong as it did 40 years ago.
With tonight’s show, more than 2 million will have come to The Garden to see him, and he will once again surpass his own MSG record. No other artist has played that many shows at a venue so large, and with a crowd so heavily drawn from his hometown he can somehow make a gathering of 20,000 seem intimate. When he sings in The Longest Time that “I’m so inspired by you,” he might as well be speaking to his fans and to the building itself.
He was born in the Bronx and grew up in Hicksville, L.I. He was about four when his parents first brought him to Madison Square Garden. This was in the 1950’s at the old Garden at 8th Avenue and 50th Street. From the highest reaches he saw the old cowboy crooner Gene Autry and sang along to Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer. Joel told an interviewer in 2013 that The Garden was “the biggest place I had ever seen in my life.”
Today, with Joel looking on, one of his Steinway Pianos was unveiled for permanent display outside Chase Square at the main entrance to The Garden. Come showtime, a No. 100 banner will be raised to the ceiling. (It replaces 99 and will next month, of course, give way to 101.) The event is one more touchstone for a local boy made good, who roamed a bit before finding, in Madison Square Garden, a second home.
“My cup runneth over,” he said, cherishing the moment. “I couldn’t think of a better way to peak in my life than this.”
About The Madison Square Garden Company
The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) is a world leader in live sports and entertainment experiences. The company presents or hosts a broad array of premier events in its diverse collection of iconic venues: New York’s Madison Square Garden, The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre; the Forum in Inglewood, CA; The Chicago Theatre; and the Wang Theatre in Boston. Other MSG properties include legendary sports franchises: the New York Knicks (NBA), the New York Rangers (NHL) and the New York Liberty (WNBA); two development league teams – the Westchester Knicks (NBAGL) and the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL); and esports teams through Counter Logic Gaming, a leading North American esports organization, and Knicks Gaming, MSG’s NBA 2K League franchise. In addition, the Company features the popular original production – the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes – and through Boston Calling Events, produces New England’s preeminent Boston Calling Music Festival. Also under the MSG umbrella is TAO Group, a world-class hospitality group with globally-recognized entertainment dining and nightlife brands: Tao, Marquee, Lavo, Avenue, The Stanton Social, Beauty & Essex and Vandal. More information is available at www.themadisonsquaregardencompany.com