Billy Joel was in rare form at Madison Square Garden Saturday night, as surprise guests Paul Simon and Miley Cyrus raised the adrenaline level on an already high-energy show.
Simon came on early in the show to lead Joel and his first-rate, eight-piece band in a touching version of “The Boxer.” Then, after two of Simon’s horn players joined Joel’s regular three-piece horn section, they delivered a searing version of “Late in the Evening.”
“We are blessed this evening,” said Joel, before bringing out Miley Cyrus for “New York State of Mind.”
Cyrus, 24, who released her new, more mature album “Younger Now” on Friday, brought a little of her Nashville roots to the Joel classic, though her powerful vocals even impressed the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
“The girl’s got pipes,” he said, as she left the stage.
Cyrus and Simon returned for the first encore, as Joel and the band kicked into “You May Be Right” and each of the guests got a swing at a verse before Cyrus and guitarist Mike DelGuidice went toe to toe on a bit of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” However, Joel put a little extra into his delivery as well.
The singer rarely seems happier than when he’s sharing the stage with another powerhouse, a fact that was on display Tuesday night as he grinned broadly when playing with Paul McCartney on stage at Nassau Coliseum as a guest.
However, Joel was in a playful mood throughout his 2½-hour show Saturday, the 45th installment in his record-setting monthly residency at the Garden. He offered up his impression of his pal and former touring partner Elton John for a bit of “Your Song,” stopping mid-verse to question the line, “We don’t have much money.” And he did a bit of his Bruce Springsteen impression for “Born to Run,” stopping halfway through to joke, “I’m gonna have to go to Broadway to figure out the rest of that.”
Springsteen’s much-anticipated one-man show opens on Broadway later this month.
Joel even tried a fake out at the end of his set. After putting on his harmonica, the signal that he is going to go into his classic “Piano Man,” Joel began to play the opening notes of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road,” which got a reaction that even cracked him up.
Currently, Joel has only two more shows scheduled at the Garden in his residency, though his promise early in the run to “play as long as they keep coming” would suggest that more are in the works considering his 45th straight sellout Saturday.
His ever-evolving show has really hit a nice groove now, especially as he showcases members of the band. The combination of DelGuidice’s poignant vocals on Turandot’s aria “Nessun Dorma” and Joel’s rock opera of sorts, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” is still stunning. On Saturday, Tommy Byrnes delivered monster guitar solos, especially on “Big Shot,” while trumpeter Carl Fischer offered a showstopping solo in “Zanzibar.”
Joel’s shows at the Garden, with or without guests, remain something special, even as he moves into closing out his fourth year there.
SETLIST: Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) / Pressure / Your Song / Vienna / For the Longest Time / The Entertainer / Zanzibar / The Boxer (with Paul Simon) / Late in the Evening (with Paul Simon) / Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) / Born to Run / The Downeaster ‘Alexa’ / She’s Always a Woman / Don’t Ask Me Why / New York State of Mind (with Miley Cyrus) / Allentown / Ode to Joy >My Life / River of Dreams / Nessun Dorma / Scenes from an Italian Restaurant / Piano Man // ENCORE: You May Be Right >Rock and Roll (with Paul Simon and Miley Cyrus) / We Didn’t Start the Fire / Uptown Girl / It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me / Big Shot / Only the Good Die Young