Billy Joel says he isn't retiring, and in fact he's eying performing full album sets in major cities. Billy, who hasn't released a new studio album in nearly 20 years and hasn't embarked any type of tour since 2010, has two festival dates booked for this year and is putting some thought in what type of show he wants to take on the road. He told Rolling Stone, "I'm putting my toe back into the water to see how performing feels. That doesn't mean I'm going to walk away right after if I don't like how they go, but if I do like how they go, I'll probably end up booking some more gigs. I don't know if I'll go an extended tour like Bruce Springsteen, hammering away for two years, though."
He went on to say that he's seriously considering performing some of his classic albums as a major part of his set if and when he books his next tour: "I'd like to do more songs that weren't hits. I got tired of doing the greatest hits set. It was boring playing the same songs over and over. There are a lot of songs the longtime fans want to hear. If I was going to play again in places like New York, I would probably feature entire albums. It would give me a chance to do songs we haven't played. . . We'd do one album and then play some obscurities. I enjoy playing those more than I enjoy playing the hits. . . I'm thinking we'd do these shows in Philly, New York, Washington D.C., Detroit and Chicago."
Billy singled out a few songs from his 1982 album The Nylon Curtain as some of the top contenders to get some stage time in the future: "I'd love to do 'Surprises' or 'She's Right On Time' or 'Laura.' I would also love to do 'Sleeping With The Television On' (from Glass Houses). On the other hand, I remember going to see Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden and they didn't do one hit. They didn't do 'Whole Lotta Love.' They played all blues jams and I walked away very disappointed. I was like, 'I don't know any of this s***!'"
Back in 2006 he toyed with the idea of heavily peppering his setlists with deep album cuts, but he admitted that it left the arena crowds baffled: "We thought it was great. But the audience was like, 'I don't know this stuff!' There has to be a balance between stuff people are familiar with and stuff they don't know."
He went on to say that the deep cuts could serve another purpose other than keeping him interested in performing and pleasing hardcore fans night after night: "I don't have any new material. But I realized that if I play older material that has never been heard before, like an album track or an obscure song, that's almost the same as doing a new song. I just don't want to be an oldies hack where I'm just playing songs everybody is familiar with."
Unlike a lot of musicians who struck big and went from club gigs to straight to local "enormo-domes" across the country, Billy Joel -- like his Columbia Records labelmate Bruce Springsteen -- made his way up the ranks as a credible live act: "What's interesting to me, I started on my own in the Village. I was in bands that played in New York City before, but I'd never played on my own 'till, I guess 1970, I started in Greenwich Village at the Gaslight. And then I played the Bitter End, the Village Gate, and Max's Kansas City -- and that was club era. And then we moved up to Carnegie Hall, that was a very exciting gig, really exciting. And then we played the Bottom Line, and that was broadcast on the radio. After that, I did Lincoln Center at Philharmonic Hall, and then we started playing Madison Square Garden, which was a big jump."
Billy Joel will next perform on April 21st in Sydney Olympic Park, Australia at the Stone Music Festival. After that, he'll play on April 27th at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at Fairgrounds Racecourse.
August 10th, 2013 marks 20 years since Billy Joel released his last studio rock album, River Of Dreams. The album, which peaked at Number One on the Billboard 200, featured the Top Three hit -- and Billy's last Top Ten hit to date -- "The River Of Dreams."
During Billy's exile from rock, he composed the classical album Billy Joel: Fantasies & Delusions (Music for Solo Piano) and recorded one "pop" song, the big band-inspired gush fest "All My Life" which was released in 2007 and produced by the late-Phil Ramone.