Billy Joel. The Thirty Three Hit Wonder.

I was recently at one of my semi-annual Neal Blaisdell events last week with my wife to see Gabriel Iglesias aka @fluffyguy when I recalled a cool moment that I had almost forgotten.

Hmmmm, about- who knows – maybe 5-6 or more years ago. My friend Jeremy Spear’s friend was on the tour management team for the artist Mr Billy Joel who was in town. Jeremy and his wife Janu couldn’t attend so he offered me the tickets. My friend Noelani was free to go so we headed out at the last minute.

We walked in looked at our ticket numbers and proceeded to scope out our seats. They turned out to be way, way, way, in the back. The nosebleed section. We were practically back against the Neal Blaisdell area roof. Literally in the nosebleed section. We sat back and laughed about this. It did not seem a big deal, it was free and we both had memories of Billy Joel; enough to appreciate some of his music.

Then, I noticed a guy walk out on the stage, pre-show of course, and look up and point at us. I thought he was just looking and pointing up at our section. So I ignored him and we kept talking. Then I saw him jump off the stage and head out into the arena looking up at us and walking through all the expensive seats up, up, up back to where we were. And he said, “are you Mr. Chang?” I said “Yes” thinking we were victims of a practical joke and were going to get kicked out. He said “Mr. Joel has some special seats for you please follow me.” Thinking it was a joke we proceeded down with him where he placed us in the front row practically at the feet of Mr. Joel’s piano. A little dumbfounded we sat there feeling like someone might ask to leave at any moment. But that did not happen. It turned out to be, next to my first concert- Stevie Ray Vaughan, RUN DMC and ZZ Top at Aloha Stadium- the best concert I had ever attended. I also came out of it realizing how much melody Mr. Joel had placed in my generations soundtrack. I have much respect and appreciation for him.

I am thankful for the experience, also thankful for being able to relive the moment for my wife. I thought I would never forget that experience, but you know I almost did.

Last night I was reading my weekly New Yorker which I try to read from front to back whenever I get it. This week there was a story of Billy Joel which I really enjoyed. Most importantly, one part of the article said this:

“Long ago, Joel grew tired of having to look out at the fat cats in the two front rows, the guys who’d bought the best seats and then sat there projecting a look of impatience and boredom that Joel characterizes, using his Vinny voice, as “Entertain me, Piano Man.” So Joel’s people stopped selling the two front rows and instead send the crew into the cheap seats before the show to hand out tickets to people of their choosing. That this usually results in a foreground that is both young and female may or may not be an unintended consequence, but Joel believes that it helps buck up the band.”

Because I have been blessed and now realize it is possible I can forget great memories I am writing this down. To preserve some of that memory of Mr. Billy Joel to let folks know he is a cool guy. I am grateful he has this policy and am grateful to him, Jeremy & Janu and Jeremy’s friend for this experience.

Mr. Joel may look, as he says in the article, like the guy who makes the pizza. But not everyone can make pizza that was so good it’s qualities stay on your mind, through time. He may have stopped making “pop music” too but his soul was so deep in the melody it has resonated to 33 top 40 hits and his tour being in top four tours in the nation today (4th after One Direction, Jay Z and Beyonce and Justin Timberlake).

Mahalo to Billy Joel. One quote in the article says it nicely “When did he become that guy? One day, he’s the curly haired dark eyed brooding artist- although he really wasn’t ever that guy- and then suddenly he became my uncle.” Uncle’s music still resonates. Mahalo Billy Joel.