Billy Joel may hail from the land of the Yankee lovers (he was a fan of the Bronx Bombers at one point in time), but that didn’t matter to the folks at Fenway Park Thursday night.
A sold-out crowd welcomed the New Yorker with open arms — and he rewarded them with more than two hours of surprise-packed music.
More than 40 years of practice helped Joel deliver an engaging performance that coupled the old with the new for the Boston-based crowd.
Knowing the set list before the show couldn’t have prepared people in the crowd for a few momentous plans Joel had up his sleeve, including a pair of surprise guests who brought the house down.
The first of the two was Emma Stanganelli, a 13-year-old musician who accompanied the piano-playing Joel for “Boston State of Mind” eight songs into his set.
After telling the crowd that he is from New York and knows what Bostonians went through, referencing the Boston Marathon bombings last year, Joel introduced Stanganelli, who performed the re-worked version of Joel’s standard, “New York State of Mind.”
Written by Pat Garrett, a Derry, N.H. resident with a love of Boston, “Boston State of Mind” was created to inspire folks to donate to the One Fund, according to a WBZ report.
References to Mike’s Pastry, the MBTA’s Orange Line, and Santarpio’s each garnered a rousing round of praise from the crowd, but the best portion of the performance was in the final moments when a nerve-free Stanganelli sang intermittently with tunes from saxophonist Mark Rivera before taking a bow. She received a standing ovation for her performance.
Check out a YouTube video of the song recorded last year below.
The other surprise collaboration took shape during Joel’s encore when he called out an upcoming Fenway Park performer: Zac Brown.
The Zac Brown Band will play Fenway Friday and Saturday nights this weekend, but the country star was on hand to help Joel with “You May Be Right,” his second to last song of the evening.
It took a second for Brown to get comfortable with the microphone levels, but once he did the pair delivered a rendition of the track that had the entire crowd rocking.
Overall, Joel performed 24 of his own songs (five were part of the encore), interspersed with a few verses from fan favorites like Fenway’s unofficial anthem “Sweet Caroline,” the Lovin’ Spoonful’s seasonally appropriate “Summer In the City,” and the ballpark standard “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Joel spent (most of) his time at the piano, some on the guitar, and some dancing around the stage while spinning his mike stand. He cracked jokes, interacted with the audience, and made Fenway Park feel as if it could have been a neighborhood bar by effortlessly playing songs like pop fan favorite “Uptown Girl” and others from his early catalog like “Summer, Highland Falls.”
When Joel took his final bow, the majority of the crowd stayed glued to their seats for one last glimpse at what the show’s opener, Gavin DeGraw, called a living legend performing at a living monument.