John Mellencamp Joins Billy Joel at Shea Stadium Farewell

The New York Times
Music Review
Billy Joel Gives Shea Its Own Last Waltz

Published: July 17, 2008
Maybe it takes a strayed New Yorker to truly cherish New York City. Billy Joel, who was born in the Bronx and became the quintessential Long Island songwriter, was flanked by New York cityscapes and video backdrops on the Shea Stadium stage Wednesday night. It was the first of Mr. Joel’s two “Last Play at Shea” shows, which are to be the final concerts there before it is demolished.

Mr. Joel played to two kinds of local pride. “This is where New York meets Long Island,” he said with a smile. “Queens — politically, that’s New York City. But geographically, we are on Long Island.” In a three-hour concert dotted with guest stars, Mr. Joel hinted that a long pop career — like his — can parallel the life of a city, full of pleasures and disappointments, triumphs and mistakes, changes and tenacity.

Mr. Joel hasn’t released an album of new pop songs since 1993, but he charged into his catalog like a trouper, with two-fisted piano playing and a voice that turned the grain of an older singer into stadium-sized vehemence — usually a decent tradeoff.

Mr. Joel, 59, doesn’t pretend to be anything but grown up. Fans in distant stadium seats got the first video close-up of his grizzled face and balding head as he sang “Angry Young Man,” the skeptical song about youthful self-righteousness that he wrote back in the 1970s. Late in the show, he played rock star for a little while, knocking around a microphone stand in “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” and putting some Jerry Lee Lewis growls and whoops into “You May Be Right.”

Mr. Joel’s music spans the styles of New York City before hip-hop, from classical Tin Pan Alley to doo-wop to Irish-American waltzes to big-band jazz to soul to rock. At Shea, his band was expanded with strings and horns. Amid the hefty chords, classical arpeggios and splashes of honky-tonk, his hits send melodies climbing toward well-turned choruses that, countless radio plays later, just sound inevitable. The tunes work so neatly as pop that they can make Mr. Joel’s songs seem less hard-nosed than they often are.

Mr. Joel sang cynically about a musician’s life in songs like “The Entertainer” and “Zanzibar,” and he sang about crushed hopes in songs like “Allentown,” “The Downeaster ‘Alexa,’ “ “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” and “Goodnight, Saigon,” a power ballad about Vietnam for which he was joined by a chorus of soldiers in uniform.

But New York itself was often the concert’s muse. Mr. Joel brought Tony Bennett out to join him in “New York State of Mind,” and they pushed each other toward flamboyantly jazzy vocal turns. Other songs were filled with New York City memories and locales. There were baseball references, too; he added a line about the Mets and Shea to the borough-hopping song “Miami 2017.”

Mr. Joel’s concert presented his New York City as a place full of romantic possibilities that, like ballparks, won’t last forever. He recalled that Shea was built while he was a teenager. “Now they’re going to tear it down,” he mused, “and I’m still playing.”

Shea Stadium is no CBGB. Its musical cachet has nothing to do with atmosphere, aesthetics or acoustics (although Mr. Joel’s sound system was first-rate; the concert was being filmed for a documentary). Shea gained its musical reputation directly from the Beatles, whose concert there in August 1965 showed the world that rock’s audience had grown by an order of magnitude. No wonder Mr. Joel sang “A Hard Day’s Night” with John Lennon inflections in his voice — though he inserted it between verses of his own “River of Dreams.” He returned to the Beatles to finish his two-and-a-half hour main set with “Please Please Me.”

Shea never became part of a regular stadium rock circuit, partly because its summer season is filled with baseball games. (Giants Stadium holds most of the stadium shows in the New York City area.) So the relatively few concerts at the stadium still bask in a Beatles afterglow. When the Police played their farewell concert at Shea Stadium in 1983, they thanked the Beatles. On Wednesday night, Mr. Joel became the only musician ever to headline all three area stadiums: Yankee, Giants and Shea.

Mr. Joel apologized to audience members who had bought tickets for Wednesday’s show expecting it to be Shea’s very last; after some boos he said the second show, on Friday, was added after the first sold out, and was the date offered by the Mets organization.

Guest stars seized their last chance to perform at Shea. John Mayer squeezed off bluesy guitar solos for “This Is the Time.” Don Henley picked up the night’s baseball theme with his own “Boys of Summer.” John Mellencamp added some lines about the current price of gasoline to his song “Pink Houses.” But it was a night for New York, a place where a pop hook can outlast a stadium of concrete and steel.

“I want to thank the Beatles for letting us use their room. Best band that ever was, best band that ever will be!” Mr. Joel shouted near the end, before belting one more Beatles song: “She Loves You.” But Mr. Joel seized his own last word: “Piano Man,” with a new introduction: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The stadium crowd sang along on both. But his finale was quiet: “Every year’s a souvenir,” he sang, “that slowly fades away.”

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Billy Joel plays Beatles tribute, joined by Mayer, Mellencamp, Henley
by Bradley Bambarger/The Star-Ledger
Wednesday July 16, 2008, 11:19 PM
If listeners didn't get back to their seats after Billy Joel played an instrumental (he said it was a good time to take a bathroom break), they were probably chagrined. The next number was his signature "Movin' Out," and the singer was in gutsy voice for it.

Joel put together a special band for the Shea shows, with strings and an expanded horn section. For "Goodnight Saigon," he brought on a choir of servicemen in dress whites. The audience stood and sang along to the Vietnam War ode's solemnly lovely chorus.

"I understand this next song is played at a lot of proms," Joel said after a rollicking take on "Don't Ask Me Why." He added, "I didn't go to the prom, because I didn't graduate."

The song was "This Is the Time," and John Mayer came on to add rather meek guitar fills and solos. Joel sounded woolly himself when stepped out from the piano to deliver "An Innocent Man."

"Well, this is the last season of baseball at Shea," Joel said later, introducing Don Henley and his ageless '80s hit "The Boys of Summer." With Joel back behind the keyboard, the Eagle took center stage, his voice grainy and plaintive despite the stadium setting.

Another few songs into the show, Joel gave up the microphone again for someone else's '80s hit. This time it was John Mellencamp, who ran gamely through "Pink Houses."

In a nod to the band that started it all at Shea, Joel interpolated "A Hard Day's Night" into the middle of his early-'90s hit "River of Dreams." After shouting and pounding through his oldie "It's Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me," the raw-voiced singer paid another homage the Beatles, asking for audience's help in singing "Please Please Me" and getting plenty.

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Otago Daily Times
Billy Joel and friends farewell stadium

Thu, 17 Jul 2008

Joel opened the show with The Star-Spangled Banner, bringing the crowd of 55,000 to its feet.

"I remember when this place was built, and now they're tearing it down," the 59-year-old New York native told the audience.

"And I'm still playing."

The Beatles opened their 1965 North American tour at Shea to a record audience of 55,600, becoming the first band to hold a concert at a major outdoor stadium.

The stadium has also played host to bands like Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Police, Simon and Garfunkel and The Rolling Stones.

Last night, Joel paid tribute to the historic Beatles gig, including the Fab Four's classics A Hard Day's Night and Please Please Me in his set.

He also got a little help from his friends, who joined him in celebrating the occasion.

Crooner Tony Bennett received a hero's welcome when he joined Joel on stage to sing New York State of Mind.

The 81-year-old Bennett paid tribute to his home town as "New York, capital of the world".

The Eagles' Don Henley rocked out with his solo hit The Boys of Summer, a nod to the New York Mets baseball club, which calls the stadium home.

John Mellencamp got the crowd feeling patriotic with his rock anthem Pink Houses, while John Mayer was welcomed onstage to play guitar with the piano man.

Joel's set, which ran for almost three hours, included many of his best-loved hits, such as She's Always a Woman, River of Dreams and You May Be Right.

Joel will tour Australia in November and December, with dates in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, as well as Auckland in New Zealand.

Mellencamp will also be touring the country at the same time, sparking hopes their on-stage collaboration last night will not be a one-off.

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Rolling Stone Magazine
Rock & Roll Daily

By Daniel Kreps

Billy Joel Bids Goodbye to Shea Stadium with Guests Mellencamp, Mayer, Henley
7/17/08, 9:20 am EST

What seemed like the entire population of Long Island showed up at New York’s Shea Stadium for the first of Billy Joel’s two-night send-off to the home of the New York Mets last night. From the opening song, Joel played to the occasion, altering the lyrics of “Miami 2017″ to “They said the Mets can stay, but they can’t play at Shea.” For three hours, Joel occupied the center-field stage, playing a hits-filled set that had the vast majority of the sold-out stadium of 63,000 singing along note for note. Though he frequently sipped from a white mug perched on his grand piano and spritzed his throat with spray, Joel’s clear voice never wavered, even after spirited versions of “Allentown” and “The Ballad of Billy the Kid.” Regardless, he had some relief pitching in the form of three special guests that brought the crowd to their feet.

As he banged out the opening piano chords of “New York State of Mind,” Joel introduced his first guest of the night, crooner Tony Bennett. Bennett’s powerful voice filled the open-air stadium as he traded verses with the Piano Man. After Bennett left the stage to applause usually reserved for a David Wright home run, Joel led his band through another five songs — including “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” and a touching “Goodnight Saigon” with a full military chorus — before introducing his next special guest. “I hear they play this song a lot at proms. I didn’t go to the prom, because I didn’t graduate,” Joel said before introducing “This is the Time” and guest guitarist John Mayer, who added Clapton-esque flourishes to the usually subdued piano ballad. After “Keeping the Faith” and a medley of “Stand by Me” and “An Innocent Man,” Joel relinquished the microphone to his next guest, Don Henley, who led the band in a rousing performance of “Boys of Summer.”

Throughout the evening, Joel celebrated the Beatles, who played the first concert of their 1965 tour at Shea Stadium. “I want to thank the Beatles for letting us use their room,” Joel remarked. The tribute began when Joel segued from “River of Dreams” into “A Hard Day’s Night,” and later included “Please Please Me” and “She Loves You.” His final guest of the evening, John Mellencamp, dug into his catalog, performing a rousing version of “Pink Houses” with an ad-libbed line about rising gas prices.

It was at this point that fans in the upper deck noticed that the stadium was actually rocking, leading some to fear the stadium might come crashing down a little sooner than its demolition date. The swaying only got more severe when Joel strapped on his electric guitar for his two heaviest songs, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me.” For his encore, Joel played an additional five songs, including “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and a “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” sing-along that turned into the crowd favorite “Piano Man,” with the band dropping out to let the crowd serenade the man who’d provided them with so many beloved hits over the years. Joel will play center field for Mets again Friday when he wraps up “The Last Play at Shea.”

“Star-Spangled Banner”
“Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)”
“Angry Young Man”
“My Life”
“Everybody Loves You Now”
“The Entertainer”
“The Ballad of Billy the Kid”
“New York State of Mind” (with Tony Bennett)
“Big Man on Mulberry Street”
“Root Beer Rag”
“Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”
“Goodnight Saigon”
“Don’t Ask Me Why”
“This is the Time” (with John Mayer)
“Keeping the Faith”
“The Downeaster Alexa”
“Stand By Me”/”An Innocent Man”
“Boys of Summer” (with Don Henley)
“She’s Always a Woman”
“Captain Jack”
“River of Dreams”/”A Hard Day’s Night”
“Pink Houses” (with John Mellencamp)
“We Didn’t Start the Fire”
“It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me”
“You May Be Right”
“Please Please Me”
“Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”
“Only the Good Die Young”
“She Loves You”
“Take Me Out to the Ballgame”
“Piano Man”

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Bennett, Mellencamp, Mayer, Henley Join Joel At Shea
Billboard Magazine

July 17, 2008 , 11:00 AM ET
By Ray Waddell, N.Y.
Even with a night of crowd-pleasing special guests, at a stadium in its final days with the imposing shadow of a new showplace over his shoulder, Billy Joel and his versatile band ruled the night yesterday (July 16) in the first of two "Last Play at Shea" concerts.

These will be the final live engagements for the home of the New York Mets, which began its musical legacy in 1965 with the Beatles.

If this was indeed a night for an artist and his fans, it was also a toast to New York. Joel had the partying, packed-to-the-nosebleeds crowd in the palm of his hand from the opening national anthem through an expertly paced set, with snippets of "A Hard Days Night" and "Stand By Me" laced throughout.

From the low-flying jets headed into LaGuardia to the ambitious backdrop that shifted artfully from Mets highlights to shots of the New York skyline and other landmarks, the show had a decidedly Big Apple feel. Joel quickly jumped into a rousing "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Down on Broadway), followed quickly by chestnuts like "Angry Young Man," "My Life" "Allentown," "The Entertainer," a sweeping "Billy the Kid" and jazzy "Zanzibar."

But the concert began to live up to its historic status when Tony Bennett joined Joel onstage in the midst of "New York State of Mind" to the joyous response of the crowd of some 60,000. Bennett was the first of a series of star turns, including John Mayer ("This Is the Time"), a guitar-playing Don Henley ("Boys of Summer," in a nod to the owners of the house), and a feisty John Mellencamp ("Pink Houses").

Other highlights included a romp through "Movin' Out," a particularly stirring "Goodnight Saigon," a spiritual turn on "Keeping the Faith," Joel's spectacular vocals on "An Innocent Man" and a thunderous run through "Captain Jack."

Sheepishly acknowledging early that the show wasn't technically the "last" play at Shea given Friday's concert, Joel took a shot at ticket scalpers before calling this stand, surely one of the biggest engagements of the summer, the "last double play" at Shea.

The concerts will be chronicled in a Spitfire Pictures documentary also dubbed "Last Play at Shea," due in theaters early next year. The film will be directed by Greg Whiteley and Jon Small, with Joel producing in tandem with Steve Cohen and Nigel Sinclair.
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Pink Houses Live Shea Stadium July 16, 2008