Billy Joel began his encore at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on March 9th with “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” a song he’s performed hundreds of times before. But when it came time to spit out “Rosenberg’s H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom,” he briefly lost his place and the whole thing fell apart. “Wait a minute,” he said as he stopped the band. “That ain’t right. All you gotta do is fuck up one word in that song and it’s a train wreck.”
Joel has never hid his disdain for “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and he’s kept it out of the set many nights on his 2014 tour. After the screw-up, he briefly thought about skipping right to the next song, which happened to be “Uptown Girl,” but the crowd didn’t like that idea one bit. “It’s the same thing verse after verse,” he complained. “Just the words change. It’s one of the worst melodies I ever wrote.”
The band kicked back into the song and Joel began with the “Joseph Stalin, Malenkov” verse, meaning nobody had the thrill of screaming “Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye” at the top of their lungs. Missed verse aside, the rest of the song went ahead without a hitch. “That’ll be all over YouTube tomorrow,” he said. “It’s okay. It was an authentic rock and roll fuck up. We’re not on tape. You don’t see much of that anymore. Ok, let’s hope we get through this one.”
The slip-up was a rare mistake on Joel’s triumphant comeback tour, which hits Madison Square Garden every month for the foreseeable future alongside select U.S. arenas and stadiums over the next few months.