Billy Joel celebrated his record-setting 65th appearance at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night with a little help from his friends.
"The King of Queens" star Kevin James presided over the banner-raising ceremony to mark the occasion, as Joel passed Elton John as the artist who has headlined the arena the most times. "We love you Billy," said James, a Stony Brook native. "Let's have another 65!"
Joel became the first person to have two banners hang in the Garden's historic rafters, which display tributes to the arena's heroes, including the Knicks' Walt Frazier and the Rangers' Mark Messier. Joel's other banner marks the most consecutive performances at the arena, a record that currently stands at 19.
Both of the Hicksville native's banners will change monthly, as he continues to break records with his open-ended residency at the Garden.
Joel, 66, referenced his MSG debut on Dec. 14, 1978, by playing "Honesty," a ballad he rarely sings because it makes him "feel like a hypocrite." He dedicated Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" to the English singer he shared the stage with on several "Face2Face" tours.
As he was preparing for the show, Joel said he wasn't all that excited about the record, but he was intent on making the show special for fans.
To commemorate the night, fans received replica blue banners, which they waved during the show. But the real take-away was Joel's performance of parts of his catalog that he seldom plays, like the new-wave rocker "Sometimes a Fantasy" that ended with a blistering guitar solo from Tommy Byrnes, a harmony-filled, upbeat version of "The Longest Time" and a wild version of "New York, New York."
Industry experts say Joel's record is unlikely to ever be challenged, as both music fans' attention spans and musicians' careers grow shorter.
And even Joel marveled at the feat, recalling his first trip to the Garden when he was 6 years old. "I didn't think I would even come here 65 times," he said. "I really appreciate it that you still pay to come see us."
His next milestone will be next month, when he plays the final show at Nassau Coliseum before it is closed for renovations.
SETLIST: Big Shot / Movin' Out / Yankee Doodle Dandy > You're a Grand Old Flag > My Life / The Entertainer / Sleeping With the Television On / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road / Allentown / The Longest Time / Keeping the Faith / Through the Long Night / Don't Ask Me Why / New York State of Mind / Sometimes a Fantasy / She's Always a Woman / River of Dreams > Summer in the City / Theme from "New York, New York" / Scenes from an Italian Restaurant / Piano Man // ENCORE: We Didn't Start the Fire / With a Little Help from My Friends / Uptown Girl / It's Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me / You May Be Right / Only the Good Die Young
Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden
Sold-out shows: 19 in his current run so far
Headliner gigs at the arena: 65 times since Dec. 14, 1978
Gross ticket sales: $2.8 million for each concert
Ticket sales rank: No. 1 in 2014 in a single run in the United States