Billy Joel was thirteen songs into his set at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night when he decided to reach deep into his catalog and resurrect a song that only his most devoted fans would recognize. “We’re gonna try something we’ve never played before,” he said. “This may lay like a lox, but we’re gonna give it a shot. Nobody knows this song, not even us. So let’s see if we can pull this off.”
With that, he launched into “House of Blue Light,” which was the flip side to “We Didn’t Start The Fire” in 1989. He’d never played the bluesy, horn-driven song in concert even a single time, but the band had clearly rehearsed it at soundcheck since they nailed all their cues with absolute precision. You can watch fan-shot video of the performance right here. “That was interesting,” Joel said when it wrapped, emphasizing the last word as if he wasn’t quite sure the experiment had worked. He then kicked into “My Life” after promising the audience he’d do one they’d know.
“House of Blue Light” is one of many Joel extreme deep cuts has dragged out throughout the course of his monthly residency at Madison Square Garden since it began five years ago. At other shows, he’s also played “A Minor Variation,” “Until The Night,” “Laura,” “Scandinavian Skies,” ‘Blonde Over Blue” and “This Is The Time.” Much of the show, however, still focuses on the hits and he’s played songs like “You May Be Right,” “The River of Dreams,” “Piano Man” and “New York State of Mind” at every single show.
Billy Joel has dates lined up at Madison Square Garden through July (including his 70th birthday show on May 9th) along with stadium gigs at baseball parks all over the country. He hasn’t released an album of new pop songs since 1993’s River of Dreams, but his popularity as a live act continues to grow with each passing year. Earlier this month, he announced a yearly “stadium residency” at Philadelphia’s Citizens’s Bank Park.