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Old before my time? The youngest person at a Billy Joel tribute concert

Caitlin Hall


Billy Joel Plays the Piano at Shea Stadium

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Last weekend, I went to said tribute concert with my mum. She didn’t force me to go, nor was I just tagging along out of pity because she couldn’t find anyone else to accompany her. I wanted to go, and I had a great time.

Robert Schmuck (Billy the Kid)

Robert Schmuck (Billy the Kid) and his 6-piece band performed a variety of Billy Joel’s hits, as well as some lesser-known album tracks. Robert is clearly very talented and his voice is incredibly similar to Joel’s; he is also a skilled piano player, and he even took to the harmonica during ‘Piano Man’.

My mum and I have even secured two tickets to see the real Billy Joel in concert next year. These days, Billy performs mostly in his hometown, New York, at Madison Square Garden. He hasn’t performed in the UK since 2019, and 2023’s concert at Hyde Park in London will be his only European show next year. At 73-years-old, I was starting to worry that Joel would retire before I got to see him.

It’s been on my bucket list to see Joel perform live. I could’ve cried when I secured the tickets. At £100 a pop, they weren’t cheap, but I don’t care. I’d have given anything—a kidney, my left arm, my firstborn child…I think my mum felt the same way, too.

I’ve always lovingly been referred to as a ‘granny’ by my friends and family. I’m 23-years-old, and my ideal evening would see me settling down in front of the TV with my dressing gown on and a cup of tea. I’m much more likely to play The Monkees or The Mamas and the Papas over any song in today’s charts.

Much of my music taste has been passed down to me by my parents. I bought a record player a few years ago, and my parents gave me their old vinyl records that they’d stored in the attic. I discovered Adam and the Ants and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and I had Abba’s 1979 Voulez-Vous album on repeat. I didn’t really get into U2, despite my dad owning four different albums of theirs, nor Erasure, which was one of my mum’s favourite bands. What stuck with me the most, however, was Billy Joel’s 1983 An Innocent Man, which has become one of my most cherished possessions. It used to be my mum’s, and before then it belonged to my nan. Joel has effectively wooed three generations of my family.

I’m also a big fan of Simon and Garfunkel, after getting to know their songs on numerous car rides during my childhood. Listening to such as Mrs Robinson brings back memories, and yet my mum only fell in love with them because they were one of my grandad’s favourites. I doubt I’ll ever be lucky enough to see the two of them live in concert, if the long-standing rumours of their arguments and disputes are anything to go by.

As I type, Paul Simon has come on the radio, and I’m overjoyed. I recently went clubbing with friends in Durham for the first time since the pandemic, and I screamed when You Can Call Me Al played in the club. We were just about to leave, but I pulled everyone back to the dance floor. Given that my music tastes were popular decades before I was born, I’ve always felt like I’d missed the chance to hear such songs in a club, a place where you can sing them loudly to your heart’s content. It was so nice that this venue played a variety of music.

It's not just older music that I’m into—I still enjoy some modern songs. I love Harry Styles and Olivia Rodrigo just as much as I love Abba and Duran Duran.

There’s some hyperbole in the title of this article—there was probably a handful of other twenty-somethings at the tribute concert, accompanying their parents. But my point still stands, it wasn’t a wild night out by any young person’s standards.

I don’t mind being ‘old before my time’. As a teenager, like many others, I felt pressure to fit in with my peers. I listened to the Top 40 charts because I assumed that’s what I was supposed to do. I suppressed my love of reading books because it was deemed too ‘nerdy’. It worked, in that I didn’t stand out or draw attention to myself, but I don’t feel like I really developed my personality, my likes and dislikes, until I left high school.

You could argue that there are many pitfalls associated with getting older. Parts of your body that become sore for no reason, paying bills, finding a few grey hairs, having to worry about the collapsing economy because it actually affects you now (the 2008 recession didn’t mean much to 9-year-old me). But I can’t fault the feeling of freedom. Wearing what I want because I don’t care what anyone thinks. Joining a local book club because I like meeting other people who share the same interests as me. Visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour and the Stranger Things Experience because I couldn’t give a damn if they’re deemed nerdy. Going to a Billy Joel tribute concert because I am, unabashedly, old before my time.

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