Billy Joel Plays To Packed Paramount
Billy Joel is feeling good playing to a sold-out hometown crowd at The Paramount in Huntington.
How many music legends can open a show in Huntington with a hit song that has the words “Cold Spring Harbor” in it?
The answer is: only one, and Billy Joel did just that when he played to a packed house at The Paramount in Huntington last week.
There was little fanfare when the music legend took the stage on Oct. 16 – there were no fireworks, no dancers, no distractions, no lofty introductions. It was just Joel, his piano, and a modest-sized band, jamming in front of a wild audience happy to be witnessing history.
“Long Island, long time no see,” Joel, a Hicksville native and one-time Huntington resident who now lives near Oyster Bay, said before joking about his commute and announcing that he would not be playing just hits.
He opened with “Everybody Loves You Now,” eliciting thunderous applause when he sang the lyric, “but you ain’t got the time to go to Cold Spring Harbor.” He then quickly channeled the familiar with “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).”
The two-hour concert had a casual quality about it. Aside from the expert lighting, certain elements of the show made audience members feel like they had been invited to an impromptu jam. Joel sounded strong and reinvigorated as he soaked in the love from the hometown crowd.
There were venue-wide sing-a-longs to old favorites like “New York State of Mind.” He altered the words to “Piano Man” to “It’s a pretty good crowd here in Huntington,” and he dedicated “Miami 2017” to the victims of Superstorm Sandy.
But first came rarities sprinkled into the first half of the show. Songs like “Vienna,” “A Room of Our Own,” “She’s Right on Time,” “The Great Wall of China” and “Stop in Nevada” had only the truest of fans singing along.
There was even a song Joel believes he has never before performed live.
“It could be a…wreck,” he admitted before playing “Blonde Over Blue” from “River of Dreams,” his last pop album released in 1993.
“Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” then brought an already-high-on-life audience to another level of euphoria, and the hits just kept coming.
The relaxed atmosphere was likely due to the fact that Joel and his band had been rehearsing at The Paramount the week prior for a short European tour kicking off later this month. There was even a familiar face in the band in guitarist Mike DelGuidice, known across Long Island for fronting the popular Billy Joel tribute band Big Shot.
“This is a great place,” Joel said of rehearsing at The Paramount. “It was starting to sound pretty good, so we said, ‘Let’s do a gig.’”
That gig became a sold-out show to benefit Long Island Cares, a Hauppauge-based anti-hunger charity founded by Harry Chapin.
“They do a lot of good stuff for Long Island, and we want to support them,” Joel said.
While the historic concert rocked inside The Paramount, outside, the streets of Huntington village took on an unprecedented vibe. Recordings of Joel’s music and even live renditions by street musicians echoed throughout town, with sing-a-longs in the street lasting well into the night.
Joel, 64, has openly discussed possible retirement from a life on the road, but his actions may tell a different story. Last year he resurfaced after a three-year hiatus from touring to play the 12-12-12 Sandy relief concert at Madison Square Garden. This year, he has continued to test the waters of performing, playing at festivals in New Orleans and Australia. In December, he will receive the nation’s most coveted arts award when the Kennedy Center honors him.
Not bad for a guy who hasn’t released a pop album in 20 years.
His Paramount show proved he still has what it takes to draw a crowd and command the stage. Tickets for the show at the 1,550-capacity venue sold out within minutes, despite giving fans only two hours’ notice and implementing a two-ticket limit per person. Tickets quickly went up on secondary websites for upwards of $800, despite the $79.50-$150 face value.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and County Executive Steve Bellone were among those in the audience, as was actor Paul Rudd.
So was Helen Proimos, of Dix Hills, who scored a ticket all on her own through Ticketmaster, 18 minutes after they went on sale at noon Oct. 15.
“At 5 after 12, my friend said, ‘Don’t even bother, they’re sold out,’ but I said, ‘I’m going to try anyway,’” Proimos said.
Determination paid off, because at 12:18 p.m., she was able to get one ticket.
Proimos said the show was “phenomenal” in every way and couldn’t get over the fact that she was not just listening to a record.
“I love Billy Joel. I always wanted to see him, and it’s for charity,” she said.
After The Paramount date, rumors of an arena tour for Joel have surfaced, although no formal announcement has been made. Songkick as of Wednesday listed a Jan. 11 show at the BB&T Center and a Jan. 22 date at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, both in Florida. Niether date is on Joel’s website or Ticketmaster.
But if how the music man left off with the Huntington audience is any indication, this may not be the last Long Island sees of Joel.
“Maybe we’ll see you again soon,” he said before leaving the stage.
Simply a formality or a veiled hint at things to come? Only time will tell.