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Piano man Billy Joel answers questions, plays a little music

By: Dargan Thompson, Assistant Features Editor


Excited Billy Joel fans crowded the Lazzara Performance Hall Feb. 27. No one knew quite what to expect from the event titled “questions and answers … with a little music.”

Billy Joel came on stage wearing a T-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap, setting the tone for a casual event. It was not really a performance; it was as though Joel had come just to hang out with the audience. Throughout the night, he shared stories and advice, cracked jokes, and of course, played some music. The point of having a question and answer session, Joel said before he began, is to help people who are starting out in the entertainment industry.

The Spinnaker compiled some highlights from the event.


The Stories
It’s obvious Billy Joel is a good musician, but he proved he is also a lively story teller. He used different voices, impersonating people such as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan. An interesting moment came when Joel answered a question about how he had written the song “Vienna.” He explained how, in his early 20s, he had tracked his dad down in Vienna and had come up with the song while he was there.


(Source: fresh1025.radio.com)

The Music
In the midst of his stories and advice, Joel kept running back and forth to the piano. In speaking about music, it seemed he found it easier to just illustrate what he meant. At several points, he used bits of Beethoven to explain the influence of classical music on his songwriting. He played a little Ray Charles and even launched into Led Zeppelin for a moment. He invited a student from the audience to come on stage to play a duet of 1974’s “Root Beer Rag” with him. And, of course, Joel played a few of his own songs and ended the night with “Piano Man.”


The Humor
Part of what made Joel’s stories and answers enjoyable was his ability to make fun of himself.

“I’m a piano player, what the hell do I know?” he said.

He mocked some of his own songs and things he had done. When asked about the secret to his longevity, he said it’s not that he’s remarkably talented, it’s just that he hasn’t died yet. He gave advice and encouragement to musicians in the audience but kept joking that he was not a motivational speaker.

The Dog

A few minutes in, a pug trotted out onto the stage, trailing a leash. Joel introduced the dog as Sabrina, and the audience laughed as she walked up to the edge of the stage to examine those in the front row. Sabrina stayed on stage throughout the event, lounging behind Joel while he talked and following him to the piano to sit between his feet as he played. A few times, it seemed the audience was paying more attention to the dog than to Joel himself.

“I’m being out-staged by a dog!” he said.


Email Dargan Thompson at [email protected].


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