Wearing a crimson scarf and Groucho Marx glasses, pop star Billy Joel emerged onto the stage of a packed Sanders Theater last night to answer questions about his experiences and give advice to students interested in music careers.
Addressing an audience of 1,200, Joel broke from his normal mega-concert format and attempted to hold meaningful discourse with students and local residents.
Joel expounded on topics ranging from how to break into the music business to how he prepares for a concert.
And much to the delight of spectators, he even played a couple of songs.
"I wanted to be able to cut through all this rock star bullshit." Joel said. "If I can help keep people from making mistakes, I want to because I've made them all."
Joel took the opportunity to set the record straight on a variety of topics. He denied rumors of having a piano-shaped house in New Jersey and defined the "real estate novelist" in the song "The Piano Man" as a real estate agent who is writing the great American novel.
Joel avoided talking about his recent divorce with Christy Brinkley, although he made some jokes about divorce throughout the night.
One audience member asked what kept Joel "psyched" for the rigorous tour circuit.
"You walk on stage and they [the audience] make a huge noise...as a guy, the more noise somebody makes, the better you tend to perform." Joel said.
One student asked Joel how he kept confident about his abilities as an artist before he became commercially successful.
"Even in the toughest times I never doubted that this is what I would do," Joel said. "I think there are some people who are artists and know they are, and that's what pulls you through. If it worries you too much, maybe you shouldn't pursue it."
When asked if he tries to suit his songs to public demand, Joel said, "I can't second guess what the public wants to hear. The public is an abstract concept. I write for me."
Joel appears to be retiring from the mega-tour scene, making venues like Sanders ideal for future gigs.
"I'm 45, I'm taking myself out of the game. There is a time to leave the game, the grow, to do something else."
Joel ended the evening with an encore of "Downeaster Alexa" and a message:
"Much luck Follow your heart or else you're wasting your goddamned time."
Joel his held several shows at colleges across the country over the last few years, said Jim E. Jensen, a representative of the company that arranged the performance.
"Originally it was more of a master class for music students to answer more technical music questions," Jensen said. "He would like to do this sort of thing more often rather than touring, to have it evolve into a one man show."
Student reaction to the evening was generally positive.
"It was more personal, like a conversation," said Sarah Kreps '98