NEW YORK — Billy Joel bid a stirring farewell to Shea Stadium on Friday at the same ballpark where the Beatles ushered in a new era in rock 'n' roll four decades ago.
"Good evening, Shea Stadium. Is this cool or what?" Joel asked the crowd at the New York Mets' home field, which is to be razed to make way for a new stadium across the street.
"They're gonna be tearing this place down, but I wanna thank you … for letting me do the best job in the world," he said.
The show came 43 years after the Beatles' legendary show at Shea Stadium. The concert came at the height of Beatlemania and demonstrated the sheer power of rock 'n' roll and the Beatles: 55,000 screaming fans at a U.S. ballpark was virtually unheard-of at the time.
The "Last Play at Shea" kicked off Wednesday with the first of two Joel shows at the ballpark, and the Beatles and baseball were on full display. Joel played three Beatles' songs (A Hard Day's Night; Please, Please Me and She Loves You) during Wednesday's set, and introduced his signature Piano Man with Take Me Out to the Ballgame. He also played the national anthem to start the show.
"I want to thank the Beatles for letting us use their room. Best band that ever was, best band that ever will be," Joel told fans Wednesday.
Joel has always embraced his New York and Long Island roots, and that makes for memory-making concerts every time he plays in the city. Throngs of fans know his music so well they can pretty much take over any chorus they like.
Joel holds up his end of the bargain. He did a record 12 sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in 2006, and Wednesday's set lasted about three hours.
And as if the Piano Man playing the last concert at Shea wasn't thrilling enough, special on-stage guests have turned up the excitement level.
On Wednesday, Tony Bennett sang New York State of Mind with Joel. John Mellencamp came on stage to perform his hit Pink Houses, and Don Henley kept with the baseball theme with his standard Boys of Summer.
At least one of Joel's famous fans was in the audience Friday: ex-wife Christie Brinkley, who sat about 10 rows from the stage, and fans snapped cell-phone photos of her before the show.