• WEATHER ALERT Severe Thunderstorm Warning

Sing us one last song at Shea, Piano Man

July 18, 2008 7:40:03 PM PDT
In 1965, more than 55,000 screaming fans jammed into Shea Stadium to watch the Beatles perform what was one of the most remarkable shows in the history of rock 'n' roll. The concert - at the height of Beatlemania - was the first show at the stadium and the first time a rock band performed at an American sports arena.

On Friday, Shea Stadium will be home to one last piece of rock 'n' roll history when Billy Joel rocks the ballpark for the final concert before the venue is torn down at the end of the baseball season.

The "Last Play at Shea" kicked off Wednesday with the first of two Joel shows at the ballpark, and the Beatles and baseball were on full display. Joel played three Beatles songs ("A Hard Day's Night," "Please, Please Me" and "She Loves You"), and introduced his signature "Piano Man" with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." He also played the national anthem to start the show.

"I want to thank the Beatles for letting us use their room. Best band that ever was, best band that ever will be," Joel told fans.

Diane Gentile saw the Beatles play at Shea in 1966 - their second visit to the stadium after the historic show a year earlier. Her recollection of that glorious summer night 42 years ago: "Oh my God, there are the Beatles on that stage and here am I."

"It was unbelievable. It was exciting; you could feel the electricity. Right before the concert we were singing `Happy Anniversary' to John because his anniversary was that day," Gentile recalled.

On Friday, Gentile will be back at Shea to watch Joel.

"I expect it to be the best concert I've ever seen," said Gentile, who lives on Long Island. "I expect him to cater to the people, you know, a Long Island-Queens kind of thing."

Joel has always strongly embraced his New York and Long Island roots, and that makes for memory-making concerts every time he plays in the city. The throngs of overjoyed fans know the music so well and are so in to every song that they can pretty much take over any chorus they like and fill the stadium in unison.

Joel holds up his end of the bargain as well. He did a record 12 sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in 2006, and Wednesday's set lasted about three hours.

And as if the "Piano Man" playing the last concert at Shea wasn't thrilling enough, the excitement level for these shows has been turned up a few extra notches because he is bringing special guests on stage.

On Wednesday, Tony Bennett sang "New York State of Mind" with Joel. John Mellencamp came on stage to perform his hit "Pink Houses," and Don Henley kept with the baseball theme with his standard "Boys of Summer."

Fans were abuzz with speculation that Joel might bring on a few more guests Friday - possibly one of the surviving Beatles or his old pals Paul Simon or Elton John.

"I would love it to be Paul McCartney or Ringo for that matter," Gentile said. "A lot of people are predicting Elton John, but Paul McCartney for me would be just perfect."


Load Comments