Waddell On The Loose: Bon Jovi, Billy Joel In NYC
Even by Big Apple standards, last week was a big week indeed in New York. Bon Jovi free at Central Park for thousands of fans on Sunday, then Bon Jovi again to a packed double at Madison Square Garden on Monday and Tuesday. Major League Baseball's All Star Game out in the Bronx for a last go-round at Yankee Stadium, also on Tuesday. Then, the capper, a final pair of concerts at Shea Stadium, home of the Mets, on Wednesday and Friday, featuring New York favorite Billy Joel and a bevy of superstar guests.
First online: Bon Jovi at the Garden. I meet Madison Square Garden Entertainment marketing diva Liana Farnham and AEG Live Europe managing director Rob Hallett for a quick beer at Nick & Stefi's, then snag the laminate and head backstage.
All shows at the Garden are special, and the final date of any major tour is special, so this Bon Jovi concert was, uh, special to the extreme. This was Exit 99, the final exit, on the Lost Highway tour, the biggest tour of the year so far and maybe the biggest all year. Backstage was thrumming with excitement, with Manager of All Things Bon Jovi Touring Paul Korzilius holding court, AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips powering his Blackberry on adrenaline and Bon Jovi manager Jack Rovner feeling fine but intent on keeping this career explosion moving forward. International touring industry power players were everywhere.
Then, of course, the show. The Garden was packed, but the 360 production, open staging, and crowd lighting somehow gave the show an intimate feel. The band was on fire, with guitarist Richie Sambora and singer Jon Bon Jovi demonstrating the kind of onstage charisma and synergy that has made this band what it is: one of the biggest in the world and a touring powerhouse still gaining momentum. It's not hard to envision 20 more years of this, so get ready.
After a rare and too-quick stop into the Billboard New York offices, it was time to head out to Shea for what Billy Joel's longtime agent Dennis Arfa has repeatedly assured me is "the biggest concert in the U.S.A. this year." Just as I thought I was faced with the daunting task of taking the New York subway system out to Flushing, Arfa scores me a ride with Phillips and A&R legend/true "music guy" Jeff Finster.
After bribing the parking guy in what native New Yorker Phillips referred to as a "truly New York experience," we hit the backstage area under Shea. It was a dungeon-like area populated with even more touring biz bigwigs than the night before, including a ton of Live Nation execs like Detroit's Motor Rick Franks, the King of the Carolinas Wilson Howard, Mr. Connecticut Jimmy Koplik, Mr. New York Kevin Morrow, God of Merch Dell Furano and Legend of Legends Ron Delsener. Also soaking it in was co-promoter Mitch Slater, now Chief Operating Officer/senior executive VP at CKX, but once and now again for this night a promoter. Al Pacino's Michael Corleone in "The Godfather II" comes to mind: "Just when I thought I was out ... they pull me back in!"
It was Arfa's party backstage, and many stories were told that I better not repeat in print. But once the sun began to set over Shea, it was Billy time. Even with a night of crowd-pleasing special guests, at a stadium in its final days with the imposing shadow of a new showplace over his shoulder, Joel and his versatile band ruled the night in the first of the two Last Play at Shea concerts.
When Joel took the stage to the theme from "The Natural," as fate would have it, Slater and I wound up at the beer stand at the same time. Slater maintain's he was buying a beer like a Regular Joe because he is a Regular Joe, raised in the shadow of this stadium. We enjoyed a toast as Joel sang a goose-bump inducing national anthem. Play ball. -- Ray Waddell
Oops, She Didn't Do It Again
By now you have been thoroughly inundated by news that the Eagles, whose last studio album came out before Britney Spears was even born, have snatched number 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart from the embattled pop tabloidista because Billboard has decided to change the chart rules and count Eagles sales from Wal-Mart. Britney's "Blackout" is now her first album not to land at No. 1 thanks to the Eagles' "Long Road Out of Eden." Some people are really really mad that the middle-aged rockers trumped the world's most talked about music celeb (she's easily topped the Billboard Buzz 100 blog chart for weeks). Others are just interested in the change to the way the charts are put together. What do you think?
J.I. popped a little poll on Billboard.com here, or you can tell us what you think of the Eagles vs. Britney chart battle in comments right here.