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 Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp.
Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. (MSG Entertainment) is a leader in live entertainment experiences. The Company presents or hosts a broad array of events in its diverse collection of venues: New York’s Madison Square Garden, Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Beacon Theatre; and The Chicago Theatre. MSG Entertainment is also building a new state-of-the-art venue in Las Vegas, MSG Sphere at The Venetian, and has announced plans to build a second MSG Sphere in London, pending necessary approvals. In addition, the Company features the original production – the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes – and through Boston Calling Events, produces the Boston Calling Music Festival. Also under the MSG Entertainment umbrella is Tao Group Hospitality, with entertainment dining and nightlife brands including Tao, Marquee, Lavo, Avenue, Beauty & Essex and Cathédrale. More information is available at www.msgentertainment.com.