Billy Joel was eight songs into his show at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night when his daughter Alexa came out to lead the band in a rendition of “White Christmas.” The Irving Berlin classic is one of the most covered songs of all time, but Joel hasn’t performed it since December 13th, 1998, also at Madison Square Garden.
Joel has been joined by many guests since beginning his monthly Madison Square Garden residency in 2014 — including Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Miley Cyrus and Peter Frampton — but Alexa is his most regular one with five appearances. At previous shows, she’s joined him for “Baby Grand, “‘New York State of Mind” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” (He also brought out his infant daughter Della Rose for “Don’t Ask Me Why” last year, but she got a little shy and merely tapped her feet along to the beat.)
Prior to Alexa’s appearance on Wednesday night, Joel played “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” along with the 1982 Nylon Curtain deep cut “She’s Right on Time.” The rest of the show was devoted to live favorites like “Allentown,” “All About Soul,” “Piano Man,” “Only the Good Die Young” and the grand finale of “You May Be Right.”
Despite not releasing an album of new pop songs since 1993’s River of Dreams, Joel remains an enormous draw on the concert circuit. Beyond his monthly stint at MSG, he also spends the summer headlining baseball stadiums around the country.
“I’ve gone onstage and said, ‘I don’t have anything new for you, so we’re just going to play the old shit,’ ” Joel told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “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.”