When Billy Joel came on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon had to be a big shot. He crashed Joel’s performance of “You May Be Right” to play air-sax, cajoled the singer-songwriter into singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with him on an iPad and even got himself invited onto Joel’s new radio station – and it was entertaining at every turn.
Fallon introduced “You May Be Right” at his desk like any other Tonight Show performance, but during a two-second blackout, raced over to the side of the Joel’s piano where a special mic awaited him. He headbanged. He charged the camera. He did his air-sax routine. And through it all, he seemed to thoroughly amuse Joel. The Piano Man even applauded him when the performance – Fallon’s performance – was over.
Earlier in the show, Fallon expressed his nerves over just interviewing Joel but, he added, “to sing with you is the craziest thing.” He produced an iPad with a looping app and the pair each contributed layer upon layer of “wimoweh” until Joel just burst into full falsetto. And again, when it was done, Joel gestured to Fallon to show that he was impressed.
Elsewhere in the program, Joel announced that on March 26th, he was getting his own channel for three months on Sirius XM. And what is he going to do with his airtime? “I have no idea,” Joel said. “I guess they want me to program some music that I like to listen to and talk about what we like to listen to on the road or what we do. I don’t know. I guess I’m going to wing it.”
The duo also discussed Joel’s monthly residency at Madison Square Garden. A diverse set list, Joel said, was the key to keeping him interested. “We mix it up,” he said. “I don’t ever want to do the same show twice. We’re bringing in some of the more obscure songs, but we do enough of the hits and songs that people know and stuff that we like to do. We’re making it up all the time.” He also revealed that since Madison Square Garden is “built on springs,” he knows he’s having a good show when the stage starts rocking up and down.
Joel had come on the show to promote A Matter of Trust: The Bridge to Russia, his upcoming CD/DVD out May 20th capturing his 1987 performance in the Soviet Union. It was one of the first times a U.S. rock musician had performed there, and it was at a time when political tensions were high between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. “They had never seen a rock and roll show,” Joel said. “They’d hand bands with more like a Polish P.A. system. And we brought the same stuff we use at the Garden – staging, lights, a sound system. And they were a little bit freaked out. They never heard anything like that. They were applauding the equipment, actually,” he joked.
“The Cold War kind of ended for us right then and there,” he said. “Everywhere we went, they love America, they love Americans, they love rock and roll, they love blue jeans, they love everything we do. And I said, ‘That’s it. We’re not going to fight with these people.'”
Fallon joked, “With everything going on in the Ukraine right now, maybe we ought to send you back.” And that was the only time Joel looked nonplussed . . . but then he slowly broke a smile.