Concert Review: BILLY JOEL "THE LAST PLAY AT SHEA" - Friday 7/18/08

This was an epic three and a half hour marathon concert of Biblical proportions. The last Concert ever to be held at Shea Stadium was definitely one for the ages. One of the best of the hundreds of concerts I ever attended. Even Ghosts from the past came to Shea Stadium to Shea Goodbye!

Lets begin with the crowd & the mood. Being a Shea Stadium veteran I know my way around to Shea without hitting much traffic and parked on Northern Blvd. right off 126th St. It's amazing how know one knows these are legal spaces.(The lots were charging $30). The crowd was of all ages from teens to people in their sixties. It was a sell out of about 65,000, dancing, singing, and shaking the rafters at Shea. It was a great enthusiastic crowd that would ecstatic more than once through out the night. And by the end of the night were completely exhausted from excitement and blown away.

Billy Joel hit the stage after 8:30 on a hot humid New York night. A Beatles fan could not help thinking of the magic nights in 1965 & 1966 when the Beatles played Shea on a similar hot humid night. The ghosts of the Beatles were definitely visible tonight. As rumors began circulating all week that Paul or Ringo may show up. Billy Joel was actually wearing the same Wells Fargo Badge that Ringo Starr had worn playing drums at Shea in 1965. Yes there was magic in the air.

Billy was absolutely fantastic as he rocked through the night alternating
ng between classic rockers & slow ones. He wore all black with pants & a black sport jacket which made us wonder how he didn't pass out from the heat. He kept wiping his head with wet towels even wearing them on his head to keep kool for a couple of songs, looking like the emperor from Star Wars. His voice was great but began to show some wear at the end of the show.The stage was massive as Joel played his heart out on a rotating Baby Grand piano through the night. He also played guitar and sang standing up on the mic for a few tunes.
The video screens were huge, I am estimating about 40 feet high on both sides of the stage. They were designed in the shape of the New York skyline and besides showing Billy & the band, flashed New York themed scenes including some Met's shots. I was very impressed with sound as it was on a Pink Floydian level,massive speakers belting out a crisp clear sound from where I was sitting about two o'clock from the stage in the field box seats.

He had a full band, with horn section, and the orchestra from the Broadway musical " Moving Out". Which of course is based on the music of Billy Joel.

A familiar face to myself and Beatles fans was Brooklyn native Mark Riveria. Mark has played on 5 Ringo Starr tours, played with John Lennon, Peter Gabriel, and of course has been with Billy Joel since the early eighties and many of those classic horn parts are his. He had the center spotlight on all the Joel classics with sax parts, as well as singing backing vocals. He sported a Met's Jersey by the end of the night!

If Billy Joel's set list wasn't enough (see below) here's who showed up as Billy's special guests to Say Good Bye to Shea!

During "New York State of Mind" Tony Bennett came out and sang to the delight of the crowd with Joel. Everyone to their feet singing along and cheering on New York and giving Bennett a huge ovation.

Country singer Garth Brooks came out wearing a Met's jersey with the number one -Brooks on the back. He & Billy did a great rendition of "Shameless".

During "Goodnight Saigon" Billy had members of the U.S. Military,FDNY & NYPD on stage singing the "We will all go down together" parts. This was very touching and brought the crowd to its feet with a standing ovation & chants of U.S.A. !! U.S.A.!!

Next up Billy announced another native New Yorker -Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, who came out in his classic leopard shirt & hanging scarves singing "Walk this Way" to a surprised crowd beginning to go insane.

Billy then introduced " A man who played Shea Stadium long before I ever di
d" Roger Daltrey of the Who! Daltrey played "My Generation" to a now absolutely ecstatic crowd. Roger in round Lennon like sunglasses gave a smashing, stuttering performance of the Who classic, with Billy Joel playing guitar and smashing it to bits, ala the Who at the end of the song!

Then it happened as if all this wasn't enough, all the rumors turned out to be true! Billy Joel brought out "Sir Paul McCartney" to absolute bedlam. I don't know if I have ever seen a crowd so happy & blown away. After all the hype and all the great singers that had graced the stage through out the night, Paul's appearance was the climax. As if the Rock & Roll Holy One himself had appeared on stage. The ghosts of the Beatles at Shea in 1965 had come alive.
"I played here many years ago & had alot of fun, we are gonna have alot of fun playing here tonight too"-Paul McCartney
To see Paul McCartney play "I Saw Her Standing There" at Shea Stadium was one of the best concert moments I have ever had. Imagine 65,000 people singing, dancing, jumping up & down smiling. In total amazement, looking at each other in shock as Macca sang "She was just 17, You know what I mean......" in Shea Stadium. It was of Biblical proportions !!! You knew the spirits of John & George were smiling down on us too.
If that wasn't enough Billy then rocked out an incredible set of his classics in between all his guests which led to two incredible encores of "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" &"Only the Good Die Young". Those singalongs and the ones to "She's Always a Woman" , "Captain Jack" & "My Life" are as passionate as any in music. A worn out ecstatic crowd chanted "Lets go Billy!!" as an exhausted Joel came stumbling to the stage and played his classic "Piano Man" on piano with harmonica attached to him. It was the biggest barroom singalong ever as 65,000 people helped carry Billy through the vocals. This was another great moment of the night and one of the best in rock and roll.

Just as you thought it was over, Billy stepped aside and and let Paul McCartney sing the final song at Shea Stadium. As Billy & Macca hugged & kissed each other, Paul got on piano and did "Let It Be". How fitting. People were again blown away to epic proportions. Some smiled, some laughed, most sang, some held each other, waved their arms in the air and some even had tears in their eyes. It was an amazing touching moment.

I was at Shea Stadium for Game #6 of the 1986 World Series,nothing will ever beat that. But this concert was probably my second best experience at Shea Stadium ever. And I have been to 3 World Series games, an NL pennant clincher, an Eastern title clincher, many playoff games, hundreds of regular season games & 4 concerts in that Stadium.

A DVD movie with all the special guests and Billy's classic performances is scheduled to be released called "Last Play at Shea". It will also cover stories of all the concerts at Shea from the Beatles to Billy Joel. I can't wait...............

Billy Joel Set List: The Last Concert at Shea Stadium 7/18/08

Star Spangled Banner
Miami 2017
Angry Young Man
The Entertainer
My Life
Summer, Highland Falls

Ballad of Billy The Kid
New York State of Mind (with Tony Bennett)
Moving Out
Rootbeer Rag
Goodnight Saigon (with U.S. Military)
Don't Ask Me Why
Keeping the Faith
Down Easter Alexa
Innocent Man
Shameless (with Garth Brooks)
She's Always A Woman
Captain Jack
River of Dreams
A Hard Days Night
Walk this Way (Steven Tyler)
We Didn't Start the Fire
It's Still Rock & Roll To Me
My Generation (Roger Daltrey)
You May Be Right

Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
Only the Good Die Young
I Saw Her Standing There (Paul McCartney)
Piano Man
Let It Be (Paul McCartney)

"This stadium opened up to play baseball in the year 1964 and that was the first year I joined up in a band. They're gonna tear this house down but I want to thank you for letting me keep doing this job. It's the best job."-Billy Joel


Anonymous said…
Anonymous said…
Couldn't have said it better myself. I've been to 100's of concert, but this one was historic.
I was sitting in Mezz Sec 12 (close to our Sunday home). During WDSTF you could see the upper deck shacking above us (I will admitt it was a little scary). Couldn't see Billy too good from there, but the screens were so huge, and the sound so loud it didn't matter. I had an incredible time. Lets Go Mets!

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