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Billy Joel Brings Out the Rarities at Long Island, NY Benefit Show

Image courtesy of Courtesy: The Paramount (via ABC News Radio)
Image courtesy of Courtesy: The Paramount (via ABC News Radio)

Earlier this year, Billy Joel told Rolling Stone that if he did go back on tour, he was more interested in playing obscure songs than he was just running through his hits yet again.  And Wednesday night, at a hastily put-together charity show in his home base of Long Island, New York, Billy did just that, mixing a selection of old favorites with some rarities he claimed he'd never played live before.

The show, a benefit for Long Island Cares -- The Harry Chapin Food Bank, took place at The Paramount, a 1,550-seat venue in Huntington, New York, where Billy and his band have been rehearsing for an upcoming tour of England and Ireland.  As Billy told the audience, during those rehearsals, he felt that he and the band were sounding so good that, he says, they thought, "Let's do a gig!...and here we are."  Although he lives on Long Island, it was Billy's first time performing in the area since 2002.  "Long time no see," he told the adoring crowd, noting that he had an "easy commute to work."

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, dressed in his customary dark tie and jacket and in fine voice, then announced that he didn't plan to play "the hits" during the show, claiming, "I'm sick of that s**t."  Of course, he wasn't entirely serious, since much of the two-hour show was made up of singles both old and new, from "River of Dreams" and "We Didn't Start the Fire," to "Allentown," "You May Be Right" and, of course, "Piano Man."  He also played live favorites that have been a part of his show for years, including "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" and "New York State of Mind."  But Billy did throw in some obscure numbers that were truly surprising.

The show got underway with "Everybody Loves You Now," likely because the lyrics mention Cold Spring Harbor, the next town over from Huntington, where the concert took place.  Then came the crowd-pleaser "Movin' Out," followed by "Vienna," an album cut from The Stranger that's a fan favorite, followed by the early tune "The Entertainer," whose lyrics detail the hazards of being a pop star.  "I know the game/You'll forget my name/I won't be here in another year/If I don't stay on the charts," sang Billy, and the irony was probably not lost on him.  After all, he hasn't released an album of new pop tunes or scored a hit single since 1993, yet the packed crowd Wednesday night certainly has not forgotten his name.

The first truly surprising song in the set list was "A Room of Our Own," a little-known track from 1982's The Nylon Curtain .  It was one of two deep cuts Billy played from that album, the other being the Christmas-themed "She's Right on Time."  He also played two obscure album tracks from 1993's River of Dreams : "Great Wall of China," which he thinks he may have performed live once, and "Blonde Over Blue," which he said he'd never played live at all.  Another jaw-dropper: "Stop in Nevada," an overlooked cut from the Piano Man album about an unhappy wife seeking a quickie divorce on her way to a new life in California.

As with most of Billy's concerts, the end was a non-stop string of upbeat hits, starting with "We Didn't Start the Fire," and running through "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me," "You May Be Right" and "Only the Good Die Young."  It was the only time during the show that Billy rose from the piano, strapping on a guitar at one point, and twirling the microphone around.  However, he didn't run around the stage nearly as much as he's done in years past -- "This is a lot harder than it used to be," he cracked at one point.

Still, it appears as though the Piano Man is enjoying himself enough that just might be considering a full-scale tour. "Maybe we'll see you again soon," he teased, as he bid the ecstatic crowd good night.

Here's the set list from Billy Joel's concert Wednesday night:

"Everybody Loves You Now"
"Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)"
"The Entertainer"
"A Room of Our Own"
"She's Right on Time"
"Great Wall of China"
"Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)"
"New York State of Mind"
"This Is the Time"
"Don't Ask Me Why"
"Stop in Nevada"
"The Downeaster 'Alexa'"
"Blonde Over Blue"
"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"
"River of Dreams"
"Piano Man"
"We Didn't Start the Fire"
"It's Still Rock and Roll to Me"
"You May Be Right"
"Only the Good Die Young"

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