You may not know his face, you may not even know his name. But I can bet you the entire world can mutter at least one lyric of a Billy Joel song, whether it be to the upbeat tune of “Uptown Girl,” or the soulful lyrical masterpiece of “Piano Man.” His sound is iconic. And on May 14th, the legend himself decided to grace San Diego with his presence for the first time in 15 years. And despite my longing to attend MC’s prom, which of course fell on the same night, I knew there was no way I would miss it.
As I made my way over to Petco Park, my heart was racing. The night had to be perfect, because I’m not sure when/if I will ever get to see him play live again. I became nervous, because the day had arrived, and if my expectations were not met, I would be crushed.
However, the second I saw him on stage (which was after he had already started playing, because let me tell you, Petco is AWFUL at managing to keep a line moving. I was standing outside for so long that I thought we would never make it in) I knew that nothing could ruin this night. I forgot about prom, all the fun my friends were having, and the gum that my shoe had picked up somewhere outside. I was listening to my messiah, my king, and in that moment, I felt holy.
Working my way up to the front row, in hopes that I would not only find my seat in the sea of madness, but find my magical moment with the legend himself, I couldn’t contain my urge to scream at his sudden announcement that he was about to sing “Vienna.” Whether it was the loud eruption of my barbaric angsty yelling, or just him acknowledging the audience, he turned to look at me.
The second our eyes met, it felt like a part of my soul had been removed from my body, forever healed, so that nothing could ever hurt me, and then carefully returned inside of me. I had made eye contact with my king. This was the moment that I had been waiting for since I was a little girl, and all I wanted for Hanukkah was a harmonica. My concert companion was not quite sure what came over me, but I had been frozen. Life was complete the second those beautiful green eyes made contact with mine. I felt like I could run for miles, or swim across the ocean. Nothing mattered anymore, I was whole.
Once we had finally found our seats, I was ready to enjoy the music. Song after song played, and I was brought to the point of tears at multiple times. But of all things to occur, I never had assumed that I would need to defend myself to this crowd of thousands.
Throughout the entire concert, I felt as though I had to prove myself to the audience of middle-aged individuals that I belonged there. People kept asking me “How old are you?” and “Do you even know who Billy Joel is?” They failed to realize that his music can touch everyone of all ages, and that his timeless sound can be enjoyed without a glass of wine or a law degree. So in response, I felt the urge to talk about how I celebrate his birthdays, or how I cried the day his second daughter was born, and that at my senior night for field hockey, my best friend brought a poster adorned with his face instead of my own. But in actuality, I showed them how die hard of a fan I am by singing the lyrics to every song, screaming until my voice was gone, and crying to the point of hyperventilation.
The setlist was what I assumed it would be, consisting of his greatest hits including “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and “River of Dreams.” However, what I failed to remember (and I knew this fact beforehand, I just feel like I lost the knowledge in the midst of my teen angst) is that Joel lets the audience pick when he performs. He gave us two options, and then played the song that got the loudest cheers. Of course at times this was difficult, like when he made us decide between “An Innocent Man,” and “The Longest Time.” That was like if someone asked me to pick my favorite Jeff Goldblum movie, but that is a story for a different time. But other times it was fascinating to see how passionate people became over the options he offered.
As a fan, I am pained whenever someone asks me what my favorite song is. How can I take an artist with such longevity that is so successful, so enjoyable, so iconic, and just pluck one song from the entirety of his repertoire. I panic and then say “She’s Always a Woman.” It’s a brilliant, emotional song, so ultimately I dubbed it worthy of being my favorite. However, I was far more emotional when Joel began singing “The Entertainer,” and “New York State of Mind.” I was completely inconsolable the second he reached underneath his piano and pulled out that soulful harmonica that he is known for. As the tears fell from my eyes, I realized that my life was complete.
From psychedelic camera tricks, microphone stand twirls, and his roadie named Chainsaw, who serenaded the crowd with a spot on rendition of ACDC’s “Highway to Hell,” Joel created a concert experience that is like no other. It was hard to believe, watching all that he brought to his craft throughout this performance, that the man had just celebrated his 67th birthday, giving me hope that he is nowhere near the end of his career. But sadly, following the entire crowds collective singing of “Piano Man,” the show had to end.
The second he walked off stage, I refused to let my excitement dissipate. Because I knew that he would be back, with an encore that would knock my socks off. I became slightly worried when it took him longer to return then I had assumed, but I was confident that the show was not done. And then I heard it. The familiar, iconic sound of “Uptown Girl” echoed through the stadium. Screams erupted, my tears pooled, and the legend himself returned to the stage. His encore was just as exciting as his main set, consisting of hits “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” and “Big Shot.” But little did I expect what would happen next.
As I heard the familiar beginning of “You May Be Right,” my heart kept at the pace of the excited rhythm that it had grown accustomed to throughout the entirety of the show. However, then a man walked on stage, someone who I recognized immediately, but did not want to be wrong in my suspicions. Joel didn’t say anything, so I assumed I was wrong. However, about thirty seconds into the intro, the man turned around. Clad in a number 4 Padres jersey (which just so happens to be Wil Myers number, but it’s fine) was Jason Mraz.
I was shocked, but only briefly, because then I remembered the pull that Billy Joel had in the entertainment industry. Of course he would be able to bring out artists such as Jason Mraz, and I would think it would be an honor to be offered the opportunity to sing with Joel at any time, whether it be on a track, or during a tour. The duo’s collective stage energy made me forget about how long I had been standing up. Mraz jumping up and down perfectly balanced the cool demeanor of Joel at the piano. A balance of young and old, clean and dirty, and spicy and sweet.
It was time for his final song, and Joel brought the house down with “Only the Good Die Young.” And with that, he bade San Diego adieu, and I was once again returned to Earth. I was later reminded of the day, the week, the hour, as I walked through downtown, my phone freezing over the countless amount of people’s snapchat stories depicting prom preparation, dinner, and the dance itself. But I did not care. My ears were ringing with the sound of his music, and my heart was beating with the love for his craft. As the clock struck midnight, and I realized that I had to leave my fantasy, I said a silent prayer in hopes that he does not wait another 15 years before returning to sunny San Diego. But I know this for sure, when he does, and tickets go on sale, I will be the first in line.