You’re supposed to say no. But the problem with excluding all comers is you forgo serendipity, you eliminate magic. Yes is risky, but it can blow your mind. Like it does in this clip of Billy Joel at Vanderbilt.
First you should watch the clip of Billy playing “Miami 2017″ at the MSG Sandy show. Kinda reminds me of that old John Lennon comment, that the rich should just rattle their jewelry. Billy’s got an entire band, he’s firing on all cylinders…and the audience just doesn’t care. They’re self-satisfied, smiling because they’re there. He’s changing the lyrics, making them apropos, but you get no hoot of recognition, no excitement, but Billy soldiers on. He’s playing to millions, but you believe he’d rather be home on the North Shore, watching TV, riding his motorcycle.
But at Vanderbilt…
Billy does these college shows. Where he tells his story. Can’t make as much money as he does in an arena, but it’s much more fulfilling, it’s different. And at this small show, he knocks it so far out of the park you become a fan, even if you weren’t one before.
Billy Joel… Wasn’t he supposed to be a joke?
Don’t pay attention to the press. Hang around long enough and you outlive the critics. Don’t forget Led Zeppelin was panned by “Rolling Stone.” And we can’t even remember who wrote the review.
College kids are not supposed to care, they’re not supposed to know. But listen to them ooh and ahh in this clip. That’s what’s great about being young, the moment is the most important. It’s all about the now. Which is why we revere the youth, they’re untainted by experience, they don’t know what they don’t know, and they can let go.
Like this Michael Pollack. Who has the chutzpah to ask if he can accompany Billy, play with him. Why not, you’re never gonna get the chance again.
And this is not like those YouTube videos where someone gets up on stage and the moment is merely a brush with fame. Pollack can really play. As well as Billy. He didn’t write it, which is the key, but boy can he play it.
But the true magic moment comes when Billy puts on his sunglasses. He’s up to the challenge. He’s gonna perform. He’s gonna blow everybody AWAY!
That’s what performers do. They grab the audience and lift them higher. That’s why you go to the show. To hear songs you know by heart in a slightly different iteration and have the night of your life.
Listen to the roar when Billy dons his shades. This is not Madison Square Garden. The audience is not separated from each other by their income, they’re all in it together.
Some folks like to get away
Take a holiday from the neighborhood
Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood
I’m takin’ a Greyhound on the Hudson River line
I’m in a New York State Of Mind
And the audience EXPLODES! This is a show!
And inspired by the reaction, Billy ups the ante, he takes it up a notch.
I’ve seen all the movie stars in their fancy cars and their limousines
I been HIIIGHHH in the Rockies under the EVVERRGREEENNS
It’s a master at work.
Normally, “New York State Of Mind” is about poignancy. But in this case, it’s like being at Yankee Stadium, Billy is truly playing to the last row, and he has each and every person in the palm of his hand.
And he does Sinatra and acknowledges it.
And the longer he goes on, the more you realize that Elton gets all the accolades, but his old piano-dueling partner is the one who’s still got the pipes. You realize that Billy is an American, one of us.
And he’s got a lumpy body, and has trouble walking, but when he opens his mouth you get it…this is music, this is art, this is rock and roll.
Everybody’s playing to the media.
Play to the audience. Take risks. Capture magic in a bottle.
And your video will start bouncing around the Internet. Because when we uncover that little kernel of life, that indescribable something that touches us and makes us feel alive, we can’t help but tell everybody we know.