Sensory Memory: Billy Joel and a very public past life regression

On Thursday, I was finally able to check something else off the bucket list: seeing Billy Joel live. I knew when he announced his residency at Madison Square Garden that my stars were finally aligning. After years of just missing his incredibly random and sporadic tour dates, my friend Aubrey got us there.

The entire night was an exploration of my youth starting with Gavin DeGraw as an opening act. Although I felt like the only person in the arena who even knew his name, the first chords of Chariot brought me right back to junior year of high school when the most important thing in my life was trying to find whose bedroom closet I was going to sneak shots of incredibly cheap vodka in that weekend.

But Billy Joel brought me back even further. Further than the time I sang Uptown Girl at a musical revue in high school and notoriously cracked on the final lines even though I requested to adjust the key down another half step. Further than when Mrs. Van Vliet used We Didn’t Start the Fire to teach us history in 8th grade and I assumed the Rosenbergs were Holocaust survivors because, as I said aloud in class, “how could they not be Jews with those last names?” (I wasn’t allowed to speak for the rest of class)

It brought me to being a toddler listening to River of Dreams with my father and pretending to play the congas on whatever hard surface was nearest. It was the first tangible connection I had with my father that I can remember. To this day, though we disagree on a lot, we will always have common ground in the music of Billy Joel. To be brought back to a time when that’s all that mattered was worth the price of the ticket.

Oh, and seeing him sing Uptown Girl to Christie Brinkley was pretty cool too.


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