Q&A: Billy Joel

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On ruling the 12-12-12 show, returning to the stage and getting hassled by Bruce

By Brian Hiatt
Feb 07, 2013

There’s a place in the world for a contented old(er) man: specifically, Miami, where Billy Joel is currently hiding out from the New York winter. But as his feisty, show-stealing set at the 12-12-12 Sandy benefit demonstrated, Joel still belongs onstage. He’s just not sure how often he wants to be there. A headlining slot at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April may end up as his only 2013 U.S. date. “I asked Springsteen, ‘Why are you gonna start the whole big long tour again?’” says Joel, 63.
“And he looked at me and says, ‘I can’t think of enough reasons not to.’ So I thought, ‘I actually could think of enough reasons.’ ”

Were you surprised by how your
12-12-12 set was received?

My agent said to me, “People forget that you were really good.” I think we usually come in as an underdog. Maybe people expect a middle-of-the-road, softer, sensitive singer-songwriter. But we just go out there and whack at it.

It may finally be cool to like
Billy Joel.

I suppose after a long enough time as the Antichrist, it has its perks. ’Cause I don’t give a shit.

Is it true that a few years ago you thought you were done with live shows?

Yeah. I had really terrible pain in my hips. It was agony. At one point I couldn’t even walk anymore. And I thought, “OK, that’s it for me. I’m just too old to do this.” I had to get hip replacements in both hips, and now slowly but surely I’m kinda getting back to normal. I’d say I’m 85 per cent. I can walk OK. I can’t run like I used to. Everybody wants to know, “Why don’t you play more?” Honestly, I’m not as good as I used to be. I’m not as athletic as I used to be. I don’t jump off the piano anymore – that didn’t help my hips, either. My voice has changed. It’s lowered.

Well, you did hit that high note in “An Innocent Man” at Shea Stadium in ’08.

That’s true. The whole show, I’m worrying about that one f***ing note!

This is an extract. To read the full story, pick up a copy of Rolling Stone Middle East, available at over 200 outlets in the UAE and GCC.



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