Billy Joel played his first show since the start of the pandemic at Boston’s Fenway Park on Wednesday night. It was a rain-soaked evening, but the capacity crowd didn’t seem to mind and they stayed throughout the entire 26-song set, which featured the usual hits along with lesser-known songs like “And So It Goes” and “A Room of Their Own.”
Joel also played “River of Dreams,” which included an extended segment of “Tush” by ZZ Top as a tribute to the late Dusty Hill. The song was a great spotlight moment for percussionist Crystal Taliefero; she spent some of the pandemic battling breast cancer but appears to be back in fighting shape.
Before “Zanzibar,” Joel acknowledged that the 1978 deep cut from 52nd Street has had a very unlikely second life with teenagers recently thanks to TikTok. There are over 358,000 videos of people dancing to the “I’ve got the old man’s car/I’ve got a jazz guitar/I’ve got a tab at Zanzibar” portion of it. “I don’t even know where they heard it,” Joel told the crowd at Fenway. (Watch carefully to see keyboardist David Rosenthal do a little bit of the dance when Joel gets to the “old man’s car” part of the song.)
Billy Joel has played Fenway Park seven times since 2014. The only summer he missed was 2020 when stadium concerts were simply not an option. He hasn’t released an album of new material since 1993’s River of Dreams, but that clearly doesn’t matter to his fans.
“I’ve gone on stage and said, ‘I don’t have anything new for you, so we’re just going to play the old shit,'” Joel told Rolling Stone in 2019. “And the audience goes, ‘Yeah!’ I’ll be sitting in the stadium looking out at 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 people, thinking, ‘What the hell are they all doing here? Why now?’ I guess, in a way, I’m an anachronism. There aren’t that many of me left. There’s a rarity to it, which gives it value.”
Joel continues his tour on August 14th in Buffalo, New York, before heading to Cincinnati, Ohio, on September 10th and Austin, Texas, on October 23rd. On November 5th, he’ll finally resume his monthly residency at Madison Square Garden, which is certain to be a very emotional evening for Joel and his fans.