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New Orleans Jazz Fest Preview – Billy Joel Interview

Billy Joel is back after a three-year hiatus from performing. He was a consensus highlight of the 12-12-12 benefit concert in New York for victims of Hurricane Sandy. On April 21, he headlined the Stone Music Festival in Sydney, Australia. On Saturday, April 27, his only other announced show of the year, he closes the Acura Stage at the 2013 New Orleans Jazz Fest.

We spoke early Wednesday afternoon. He called from his hotel just after powerful thunderstorms rolled through town — a storm that was a little too reminiscent of his 2008 Jazz Fest monsoon.

TP: Will your Jazz Fest set this weekend be similar to your Australian show?

Joel: No, I think we’re going to do a few more jazz-oriented songs. The Australia show was more pop hits, Top 40 things that people would be familiar with. This is Jazz Fest. I’m aware that there’s some resentment that pop acts are headlining at the Jazz Fest. I think we should at least acknowledge that it is a Jazz Fest with our material. So we’ll probably do some of the numbers that have more jazz overtones. … We’ll acknowledge that we know where we are. We’re in New Orleans. This is where all this stuff started.

TP: The Australian date was your first, full public show in three years. How did it feel to jump back in?

Joel: The show ended up being pretty good. I would say we were a tad over-adrenalized. Everyone was a little bit overexcited. Sometimes the tempos were a little bit rushed. Sometimes there were some silly mistakes, because everybody was so overeager. I think everybody was really happy to be back on stage playing together again. But sometimes that’s a good thing. I think the audience would rather see an honest mistake than a phony, pre-recorded thing.

TP: Did you find that you’d missed performing?

Joel: I don’t know if I would say that I missed it. I just enjoyed it while I was doing it. I’m not someone who sits around and goes, “Gee, I wish I was up on stage. I wish the audience was going ‘Hooray.'” When I got back on stage, I recognized, ‘Oh, right, I know how to do this. This is my job. That’s what I do.’ So that came back.

Read the complete Billy Joel interview at

Photo credit: Kevin Mazur