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The Piano Man takes Lynn University’s stage
Published Feb. 24, 2012
On the evening of Thursday, Feb. 23, Billy Joel – commonly referred to as "the piano man" in popular culture – took the stage in Lynn University’s Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center for “An Evening of Questions & Answers … And a Little Music.”
The sold-out event was more than just a concert with Billy Joel. It was an intimate engagement only open to Lynn students, staff and faculty that brought together an audience from several generations. One student asked, “what does it feel like to know your music spans generations?” “It feels damn good,” said Joel who was first seen by some audience member’s in the 1970s while others were first introduced to his music on Sesame Street.
His two-and-a-half hour performance featured an unplugged, unscripted and unpretentious Billy Joel who answered whatever questions came his way – in an irreverent, hilarious and extremely gracious manor.
An entertainer at heart, Joel allowed the Lynn audience access to his life as a musician, storyteller and comedian – and even introduced the crowd to his pug, Sabrina, who joined him on stage. Although Joel didn’t bring his band, he did bring a grand piano, a mini-grand electric piano, a gong, a harmonica and even a tambourine.
The audience asked questions related to Joel’s love of music and the inspiration behind many of his top hits including Piano Man, The Great Suburban Showdown, Just the Way You Are, Stiletto and others. When asked about a specific tune, more often than not, Joel would saunter over to one of the two pianos on stage and after thumbing through the alphabet of a voluminous songbook of his hits, break into song. When asked what inspired him to write Piano Man, “the job,” said Joel. “All the characters [in Piano Man] are real,” he said talking about the people he met during his short, six-month stint performing at a piano bar.
Joel even agreed to share the stage with a few Lynn students throughout the evening. First up was a student who asked if she could sing Movin’ Out with him. “In the original key,” Joel asked? “I don’t know,” said the student. “I didn’t think you’d say yes!” Then, a conservatory student from Haiti, Jael Auguste, waiving his guitar in the air instead of his hands, asked Joel if he would mind listening to one of the songs he wrote. To everyone’s surprise, Joel invited him up to sing it, even pulling out a tambourine to accompany him.
For more performance anecdotes, read Knight Writer for Debbie Stern’s personal review.