Kevin Kane/WireImageIn August of 2015, Billy Joel performed the final concert at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum — the premiere concert venue in his native Long Island — before it was closed for a $165 million renovation. On Wednesday night, the revamped and renovated Coliseum reopened, and Billy was back on stage to christen it with a string of hits and some surprise guests.
It was the Piano Man’s 33rd sold-out concert overall at the venue, a fact highlighted by a special banner hanging in the venue rafters. His first was 40 years ago, which the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer noted from the stage Wednesday night.
“This is pretty cool,” Billy said of returning to the revamped venue. “It’s an honor to be here tonight.” He also noted that the renovated arena “sounds a lot better” than the old one, adding, “There’s a lot more ambience.”
Being back in his old stomping grounds put Billy in a nostalgic mood, as he spoke fondly of the bars he used to perform in and around Uniondale, where the Coliseum is located, as well as a “Battle of the Bands” he competed in at a nearby park in 1965.
The 30-song concert touched on Billy’s entire career, featuring songs from his very first album, 1971’s Cold Spring Harbor, all the way through to his most recent collection of pop music, 1993’s River of Dreams. But while his catalog is filled with enough hits to keep any audience entertained, he also brought on some special guests.
One was fellow Long Island rocker Joan Jett, who joined Billy and his band for her hits “I Hate Myself for Loving You” and “I Love Rock and Roll.” Another Long Island celebrity, Billy’s pal Kevin James, came out during “She’s Got a Way” and performed a comically terrible interpretive dance with Leah Remini, who played his wife on the hit sitcom The King of Queens.
After Leah pretended to get fed up with Kevin’s pathetic attempts at dancing, she brought out Tony Dovolani — her pro partner from her time on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars — and waltzed with him, while James danced romantically with a huge hero sandwich. James returned towards the end of the show to clown around during “You May Be Right.”
The most touching moment, though, came when Billy brought on a large group of local veterans to sing the chorus “And we would all go down together” on his Vietnam War elegy “Goodnight Saigon.” “Let us not forget,” Billy said, “This is the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.” He made sure to warmly greet each veteran and shake their hands after the number.
While the show was similar in many ways to the concerts that Billy has been doing monthly at New York’s Madison Square Garden, right down to the spectacular video screen set-up and his super-talented backing band, Wednesday night’s concert did feature a few rarely played numbers: “No Man’s Land,” from River of Dreams, which Billy wrote about the over-development of Long Island, and “Sleeping with the Television On,” a deep cut from Glass Houses. He also threw in a cover of Louis Armstrong‘s “What a Wonderful World.”
Naturally, the Long Island audience cheered wildly for every local reference in the lyrics, from Cold Spring Harbor to the Village Green to the Miracle Mile, but Billy threw in some extra ones as well: during “New York State of Mind,” he sang “The New York Post and Newsday, too” — Newsday being Long Island’s paper. And during “Piano Man,” he sang, “It’s a pretty good crowd here in Uniondale.”
Here’s the set list for Billy Joel’s concert Wednesday night at the venue now known officially as NYCB Live’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum:
“All for Leyna”
“Vienna” (audience chose this over “Just the Way You Are”)
“No Man’s Land”
“Everybody Loves You Now”
“The Downeaster ‘Alexa'”
“New York State of Mind”
“She’s Got a Way”
“Ode to Joy” (Beethoven)/”My Life”
“Sleeping with the Television On”
“She’s Always a Woman”
“Don’t Ask Me Why”
“I Hate Myself for Loving You” (with Joan Jett)
“I Love Rock and Roll” (with Joan Jett)
“Sometimes a Fantasy”
“What a Wonderful World” (Louis Armstrong cover)
“River of Dreams”
“Nessun Dorma” (Puccini)/”Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”
“We Didn’t Start the Fire”
“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”
“Only the Good Die Young”
“You May Be Right”/”Rock and Roll” (Led Zeppelin cover)
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