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The singer-songwriter is the first international musician to perform at Eden Park. Video / Supplied
He may be 73 years old but when Billy Joel took the stage at Eden Park on Saturday night, his energy told the story of a different 73 — 1973.
That was the year Piano Man broke into the Billboard Top 40 and Joel was a star on the rise and had that special something you couldn’t put into words.
Fast-forward 49 years and Joel’s energy still puts even the youngest of pop rockers to shame.
There were no supporting acts, no theatrics, no dancers — he didn’t need any of that. The crowd was here for one thing and one man who they hadn’t seen since 2008.
A sold-out audience of more than 35,000 fans came to see the superstar play his only New Zealand concert — a historic first for Eden Park — and the Piano Man had them enraptured from the start.
The adoring crowd screamed at the first glimpse of the star, who opened with A Matter of Trust, his energy amplified, filling the iconic stadium. The crowd knew every word and sang along with him.
The lack of phones from the audience was refreshing as they soaked up every moment of the icon’s witty banter and self-deprecating humour and some members of the crowd started conducting their sections to applause.
Joel serenaded the masses with Vienna and got everyone on their feet to The Entertainer, but the highlight came when Joel took a moment to speak to the crowd.
“Hello New Zealand! Long time no see! Welcome to Eden Park stadium.”
As the crowd roared, he continued: “I have bad news and good news. Bad news — I haven’t written or recorded anything new since 1993. So basically you’re going to hear the same sh** you wanted last time.”
Over the audience’s laughter, the singer joked: “The good news is, I haven’t recorded anything new since 1993, so you’re probably going to hear the same sh** you wanted this time.”
The crowd hung onto every word as he busted out hit after hit and held the multi-generational audience captivated for the full show.
I found my millennial self muttering “they don’t make them like that anymore,” as he went off the set list and declared; “This just feels like I should do this here,” before erupting into The Downeaster ‘Alexa’.
He even gave the crowd his own impromptu take on the Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up, an absolute highlight of the show.
Shortly after, Joel’s young daughters Della and Remy made an appearance, sitting at dad’s side next to the piano and chatting to him like it was a normal Saturday night and 35,000+ people weren’t onlookers of the sweet moment.
The audience danced, sang, kissed and reminisced — the venue was a sea of denim jackets, dusted-off leather boots, Old Spice and good memories.
Joel gave it his all and there wasn’t a disappointed fan in the entire stadium as plastic cups of chardonnay were raised in the sky in celebration, and Joel came back on for an encore breaking out in We Didn’t Start the Fire.
So while Joel didn’t start the fire, it was made clear to a soaked Eden Park crowd, that it was always burning.
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