Everynight Charley

Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden / February 14, 2023

Valentine’s Day with Billy Joel guaranteed the performance of some of his best known wedding songs. Although Joel may be best remembered for “Just the Way You Are” and similar love songs, he is also a rocker. That he did at his 88th monthly and 134th lifetime show at Madison Square Garden on February 14.

Introducing songs early in the show, Joel reflected on how each song was or was not in line with Valentine’s Day sentimentality. The underlying message was that the setlist was not necessarily designed to align with a love theme and that some of his lyrics pointed in the opposite directory. Some songs were for holding hands, while others, including the hard-rocking covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” were more for fist-pumping in the air.

Joel has not recorded a hit song in 30 years, yet his catalog is so robust with popular songs that he entertained non-stop for nearly three hours. His ‘Top 10’ songs highlighted “My Life,” “You May Be Right,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “Uptown Girl,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and “The River of Dreams,” among his numerous classics. In addition to his familiar songs, Joel and his band frequently wove snippets of other artists’ songs that paralleled his own rockers and anecdotes. 

Some of these interludes were for comical effect. Referring to his advanced age, for instance, he announced, “You know at this point, I ain’t no Mick Jagger.” The band launched into the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.” Joel sang the lyrics and imitated some of Jagger’s trademark stage moves.

At age 73, Joel remains in strong voice. To introduce “An Innocent Man,” he moved away from his piano bench and explained that he had to sing the song standing. He added that when he wrote the song as a young man, he had not thought about how he would have to hit the high notes later in life. He not only scaled from the low notes in the verses to the high notes in the choruses, he also returned to his piano and followed by singing a snippet of Frankie Valli’s “Sherry,” repeating the jump from low tones to falsetto.

Song after song, story after story, sitting at a revolving piano or standing and spinning his microphone stand, Joel entertained. Supported by a band of tight, professional musicians, he brought new life to his vintage songs. Some arrangements sounded very close to the recorded versions, and others were enhanced by extended guitar and horn breaks. At key points, his musicians moved forward to center stage to punctuate the bridges in his songs. Bright lights and video accompaniment likewise accented the spectacle.

For years, Joel has said in interviews that he is no longer interested in writing and recording new songs. Nevertheless, he continues to thrive on live performances. While his fans might be eager to hear new compositions, his New York fans are more than satisfied with his retrospective residency once each month at Madison Square Garden.

Photo by Everynight Charley


  1. Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)
  2. My Life (with Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ode to Joy intro)
  3. Everybody Loves You Now (with Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s My Funny Valentine snippet)
  4. Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
  5. An Innocent Man (with the Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up intro)
  6. Zanzibar (with the Four Seasons’ Sherry snippet)
  7. Don’t Ask Me Why (with Warren Zevon’s Lawyers, Guns and Money intro)
  8. Just the Way You Are
  9. Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin cover, sung by Mike DelGuidice)
  10. The Entertainer
  11. She’s Got a Way
  12. Sunshine of Your Love (Cream cover)
  13. Allentown
  14. New York State of Mind
  15. The Downeaster Alexa
  16. She’s Always a Woman
  17. Sometimes a Fantasy
  18. Only the Good Die Young
  19. The River of Dreams (with an interlude of Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep, Mountain High sung by Crystal Taliefero)
  20. Nessun dorma (Giacomo Puccini cover, sung a cappella by Mike DelGuidice)
  21. Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
  22. Piano Man


  1. We Didn’t Start the Fire
  2. Uptown Girl
  3. It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
  4. Big Shot
  5. You May Be Right (with an interlude of Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll sung by Mike DelGuidice)
Photo by Everynight Charley