My very first music Love and Obsession was one William Martin Joel, most of the world knows him as Billy Joel. In my parents very bitching record collection (which kills me that we no longer have all of it today but… ‘so it goes’…) when I was a kid, Glass Houses was in heavy rotation. I would often play it. I loved that is started with the sound of shattering glass! And that the front of the album cover was Billy holding a huge rock, standing in front of a glass house and the back of the cover was him behind the broken glass. As a young girl of what… I don’t even know how old… the album came out when I was four… but as a young sweet Iowegain, I thought it was pretty dang boss to have a record look and sound like that. Glass Houses is filled with radio hits but the non-radio hits (surprise, surprise) are what I really dug. And my infatuation with Piano Players began.
Billy Joel’s ‘Storm Front’ tour in 1989 was my First Concert Ever. My mom took me and we rocked out together. I think my best friend Tegwin came along, too. We drove to Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa - the site of most of the concerts I went to in high school - I was thirteen years old. I had never been to a huge concert before and every second was incredible. Billy entered the stage sitting as his piano as it rose up through the floor! MY MIND WAS BLOWN!!!! I remember one dude next to me couldn’t get over that I knew all the lyrics to every song Billy sang that night. “Whoa! You know every word!!??!!!" He exclaimed in amazement.
Hell yeah, I know every word.
In 1993 I saw him during the ‘River of Dreams’ Tour, although I was not happy that he had married Christie Brinkley instead of me. But, I rose above and went to the show anyway. I saw him again in 1994 when he toured with Sir Elton John. Two piano men. Both brilliant but Billy is always the Most Brilliant to me. Always. I know that somewhere I have the concert t-shirts and ticket stubs to prove this but I do know where.
In the fall of 1998, I was working at FAO Schwarz on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It was my first job here in the city. One day, Liberty DeVito walked in. I about fainted! No one else knew why this was so very cool to me. Liberty was Billy’s long time drummer. I came home to the garden apartment I was sharing with my four other roommates at the time and I told my pal (who is as die-hard of a Billy fan as me) Craig that, “I SAW LIBERTY DE VITO TODAY!!!”
It was one of the biggest brushes with fame I had at that point in my little life. Of course, I was not allowed to talk to him but I knew who he was and kept my eye on him the whole time he was on the first floor of the toy store.
Craig said to me, “Well… you’re going to see him again tonight because you are coming to the Billy Joel concert with me!”
I had no idea Billy was even in town. I didn’t know Craig was even going to begin with. I didn’t know that one of the people who was supposed to go with him could not so Craig decided to surprise me with the extra ticket. I didn’t know what to say.
We thoroughly enjoyed the show that night in 1998.
In March of 2014, I was attempting to do the pre-sale for Phish tickets for their three night July 2014 stint in Chicago but our internet was being a real butt. Thankfully, I am married to a man who can handle such trials. He said he would manage our internet connection and try to get on the pre-sale for me. I handed him my credit card and paced wildly around the office and living room. For some reason, I get nervous for pre-sale stuff. I mean, the clock is running on the page, they have to run your credit card information and you hope it all goes through before the tickets are unavailable… it is kinda stressful, man. Tim said, “Okay, I’ll get tickets for Saturday and Sunday nights.”
“And Friday night," I added. "I am going all three nights, friend. Two tickets for each night. FRIDAY, SATURDAY, SUNDAY.”
"Yup. Saturday and Sunday."
"Tim. Friday. Saturday. Sunday."
"You might have to sell the Friday night tickets if you buy them today."
"YOU might have to sell the Friday night tickets if I buy them today!?! WHAT ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT??"
"I don’t think you’re going to want Friday night tickets. Just. Believe me."
"I’m sorry, Tim, but I don’t think you remember who you are talking to and who you are married to. I am going to Phish all three nights they are in Chicago."
"UM…. can you just believe me?"
Now, my friends, Tim and I rarely argue. We just do not normally operate that way. But, a bit of an argument was a’brewin this particular brisk March morning. I remember I walked into the kitchen to cool off.
"I guess this just has to be a matter of trust, huh, Tim?" I try to say as calmly as I can. But then! *** EUREKA!*** As soon as that phrase came out of my mouth, my little brain knew.
"Tim, if I guess why I wouldn’t use Friday night Phish tickets, will you tell me?"
He said he would really like to surprise me because I (usually) like surprises but if it would make me feel better to know -
I didn’t even let him finish that sentence. I said, “If I am not going to all three nights of Phish, then I need to know why. Now.”
"Okay…" he finally acquiesces.
I very calmly, in a low, quiet voice say, “Did you get me tickets to Billy Joel? …. amigoingtobillyjoel?” I tear up.
“Yes, Sweetheart. I wanted to surprise you for your birthday with tickets for the Billy Joel concert but now… you won’t be surprised on your birthday. Happy Birthday?”
Now - these tickets, for the Friday 18 July 2014 Billy Joel at Wrigely Field concert sold out immediately months prior. I had completely put that option out of my brain. But my sweet husband figured that if anything could trump Phish, it would be Billy.
Good call, Ryder.
Also - he could not go with me. I knew exactly whom to ask!
So - on 9 May 2014, Billy Joel’s birthday, I asked my dear college pal and fellow die-hard Billy Joel fan if he would be my date to see Billy at Wrigley on July 18th.
So, it was a date.
Now, I planned my trip to see my nieces in Texas right before all of this because I can get kinda sad after seeing them, but I knew if I was coming back to an Epic Weekend of my Phavorite Music Artists, it would be okay. I have to admit that after seeing the various set lists and pictures from the Phish summer tour that started on July 1st, I was getting a little concerned about missing on on Friday night in Chicago. But Friday afternoon, while doing some chores around the house I heard something. My bedroom windows were open because there was a great breeze that day. I was playing Glass Houses on my record player but in between songs, I heard something.
It was BILLY JOEL DOING HIS SOUND CHECK!!!
He was singing Innocent Man.
I was in goosebumps. In tears. In my bedroom window. My Phish hang-ups were out the window… in the window? I could hear Billy through my window. I was sitting in my window. You get it.
I had my ticket in hand, for months it had been waiting patiently for me in the envelope with my birthday card. Tonight was FINALLY here. I walked over to Wrigley Field and waited for Craig to arrive.
Thousands of us had gathered at the ol’ stadium to see The Piano Man. Please note all of the white people. So many white people.
I mean, I can say that because I am a white person. But I know to clap on the 2 and 4… can’t say as much for the other people we were next to. But these two whities were down to enjoy our man!
During Craig’s entire bus ride over to Wrigley, he and I were texting Billy Joel lyrics to each other. Deep cuts. Anything the one threw out, the other could finish the lyric. It was such fun for our little Billy Nerd Hearts.
Neither of us knew there would be an opening act (this is where I know I’ve been to too many Phish shows. No one opens for them. It is all them. All night. ) and neither of us knew who Gavin Degraw was. Neither of us really cared.
Billy hit the stage at 9:00pm. It was nice and dark outside. The breeze was perfect. The lights went down, came up and Billy was downstage and went right into “A Matter of Trust”. Oh, the irony. I had to text Tim to let him know that Billy opened with that song. Tim said, “Ha! It was foretold!”
The show was brilliant. Billy sounded incredible. He played piano and guitar. He hit the high notes in Innocent Man - he couldn’t do that when I saw him in ‘98 but he could in 2014. Mazel, Billy! Here is his set list from the night. Personal favorites of mine were: Vienna, Zanzibar, Miami 2017, Don’s Ask Me Why and the interlude in River of Dreams - but come on, the whole show was brilliant!
We were up in section 508, the very last row which was great so we could stand and lean against the chain link back of the stadium. Craig and I were the only ones standing for the whole show. A few of my personal pet peeves did happen - no one standing or dancing and people chatting the entire show. And not commenting on the music but having full-on, loud, stupid conversations. Dummies! Everyone should stand and have a good time and pay attention to the brilliance of Billy!!!
I mean, there were just a few other people there to enjoy the show…
That is home plate of Wrigley, right there. It was difficult to capture just how many thousands of people were there. In the stadium, in the roof tops seats and out on Clark street and Sheffield to see and listen to The Entertainer.
Another highlight was his roadie, Chainsaw, busting out in to AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ - that finally got everybody up. They rocked Chicago with that rippin’ version of it. Chainsaw did a killer job singing it.
During the last song of the encore, I stood still to take it all in. Only, I was still moving. All of us were moving. And I don’t mean dancing moving - yes, I should tell you all the white people finally started dancing along during the rocking five song encore - but I mean, the kinda dumb dude standing on the other side of me was all, “hey - why are we closer to each than we were earlier?” and I looked up at the roof and said, “Because the stadium is rocking.”
And it was.
And we were.
The entire stadium was swaying. I thought, “Wrigley is going to collapse. I might die. What a way to go. And during ‘Only the Good Die Young’ - perfect out. Byeeee!!!!’