In December 1978, Billy Joel headlined Madison Square Garden for the first time, playing three shows on the tour for his first No. 1 album, “52nd Street.” Dozens more performances followed there over the years, and in January 2014, Joel began a monthly residency as the Garden’s first “music franchise.”
Now the monthly gig is coming to an end. On Thursday, Joel and the Garden announced his final 10 shows in the series, saying the residency will conclude in July 2024 with his 104th show in the series, which will be his 150th lifetime performance at the Garden.
“There’s only one thing that’s more New York than Billy Joel — and that’s a Billy Joel concert at MSG,” Mayor Eric Adams of New York said in a statement.
James L. Dolan, the chief executive of MSG Entertainment, which owns the Garden and other venues, added: “Billy Joel’s franchise run has made history — not only for Madison Square Garden, but also for the music industry overall.”
Joel’s run at MSG has been a cultural phenomenon and a business unto itself. Every show has sold out, and aside from a dozen or two standards — you are all but guaranteed to hear “Piano Man,” “Allentown,” “New York State of Mind” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” — the set list varies enough to keep fans coming back again and again. The roster of special guests has included Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett, Olivia Rodrigo and Joel’s daughter Alexa Ray Joel.
The residency has continued on a roughly monthly schedule since its inception, aside from an 18-month break during the Covid-19 pandemic, returning in November 2021.
According to the trade publication Pollstar, Joel’s residency has played to nearly 1.7 million people through its 89th performance in April, and sold $207 million in tickets. By his final show, the residency will have grossed over $250 million.
The idea for the residency came about following Celine Dion’s two record-breaking runs in Las Vegas, which started in 2003 and ultimately sold about $660 million in tickets. But Joel balked at traveling there. “I knew I didn’t want to be a resident in a place like Vegas,” he once said. “I don’t even like Vegas.”
Joel’s performances at the Garden have become “the Super Bowl of music events,” Dennis Arfa, his longtime booking agent, told The New York Times last year. It has also inspired a new residency model that has lately taken hold in the music business, with some superstar artists preferring longer stays at a smaller number of venues, rather than crisscrossing the map one gig at a time — a move that can reduce touring costs and provide a bit of branding buzz. Last year, for example, Harry Styles played 15 dates at the Garden and, in late 2022 and 2023, another 15 at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
Joel, 74, will begin his 10 countdown shows on Oct. 20. A representative for the singer said that while he is ending this run, Joel is not retiring.