The loudspeakers played Wings and The Clash moments before Billy Joel walked on to the stage. Then the lights flickered, and the at-capacity crowd at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts roared.
“I hope no one is assuming this is going to be a concert,” he said.
Joel stood onstage between two pianos and in front of a gong Thursday night for Accent’s “Billy Joel — An Evening of Questions & Answers … And a Little Music.”
He looked like a college professor in a dark sweater, jeans and a baseball cap, and he used a green laser pointer to pick audience members.
A woman asked if he was going to tour again.
“If I get the vibe, I’ll do it,” he said, his voice loud and deep as he waved his hands around while he talked. “I like to be at home with my doggy and my girlfriend du jour.”
Someone else asked about singing and playing at the same time. He paused, cocked his head, and said “well,” and walked to the piano. The crowd roared again.
He played “Summer, Highland Falls” with his left hand. Then his right. Then he played them both at the same time, his voice floating easily, filling the space.
Throughout the almost three-hour show he played pieces of other famous tunes: “New York State of Mind,” “She’s Always a Woman” and “Vienna.”
A 24-year-old student named Ori Eizenberg raised his hand. The business and animal science major wanted to jam. Joel said yes. He ran to the stage and they played a 12-bar blues progression together.
“Never in my life did I think this would happen,” Eizenberg said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Sometimes you just got to go for it.”
Contact Jon Silman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Billy Joel speaks to a packed house at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday night. He performed several songs and answered questions from the crowd about his career and the music business.