By Peter Sloggatt
It was the ultimate tribute band fantasy.
Billy Joel, whose songbook is covered by Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot, made a surprise appearance at the band’s gig at The Paramount on Friday, banging out three songs before a crowd of fans thrilled, if not dumbstruck, by their good fortune.
Led by DelGuidice, Big Shot is made up of members of Joel’s touring band. Big Shot plays a monthly gig at The Paramount, not unlike the residency that Joel has at Madison Square Garden where he’s played monthly to sellout crowds since January 2014.
DelGuidice was playing to a near-full room of fans when there was a stir at the front of the room. Many had noticed the Piano Man himself had taken a seat with his wife, Alexis Roderick, in upper level VIP loge seats near the stage.
While flashes from cell phone cameras went off near where Joel was sitting, word spread along the main floor area, “Billy is in the house.”
Murmurs of anticipation that Joel might join Big Shot on stage only grew when some noticed Joel get up from his seat and slip out a side door.
A short time later, as the band retook to the stage at the end of a Chuck Burgi drum solo, Joel emerged from backstage.
The audience exploded into cheers as he took a seat at the piano.
“My man, Mike DelGuidice,” Joel shouted, gesturing to the bandleader who was now strapping on a guitar. They hit the ground running, launching into the Beatles classic, “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Joel played it bluesy, with gravelly vocals a la Joe Cocker, before jumping to “Honky Tonk Woman.”
The only one of his own hits Joel performed was an energetic mash-up combining “You May Be Right” with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.”
Joel’s hit gave the audience a chance to participate, singing, “It just may be a luuuu-natic you’re looking for,” into Joel’s outstretched mic. DelGuidice showed his chops on guitar, weaving the Zeppelin hit into the song.
And just as fast as it happened, it was over. With a thank you and a wave, Joel exited stage right and a smiling, sweating DelGuidice took back his seat at the baby grand. He kept the energy going with the past-paced crowd-pleaser, “Big Shot,” then took it down a notch with “Always a Woman to Me,” both from the Joel songbook.
While he sells out Madison Square Garden better than anyone, Joel is no stranger to The Paramount. His October 2014 benefit show there for Long Island Cares was the hottest ticket in town, selling out in minutes, and he’s been spotted in the audience at a show here and there. As he pointed out to the audience Friday night, the venue is “just down the road” from his home.
Which can only leave his fans wondering if they’ll be the lucky ones next time Billy stops in.