By CHRIS BUTERA
A river of dreams came true on Tuesday when rock legend Billy Joel became the first musician to become a franchise at a Madison Square Garden, committing to perform in the arena for basically the rest of his life.
“It is a great day as we officially welcome Billy Joel to Madison Square Garden,” said MSG executive chairman James Dolan. “I’m truly an admirer of your music and I love you to death.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo echoed the sentiment.
“Billy tells the New York story,” said Cuomo at a Skybox press conference attended by various sports luminaries, inclduing former Knick guard John Starks and Ranger star Rod Gilbert. “He tells what he feels, fights for what he believes in and wrote New York City’s best love song, ‘New York State of Mind.'”
“There’s no other venue quite like the Garden and there’s no other crowd quite like New Yorkers,” said former Ranger Adam Graves. “When you perform here, you feel like you’ve made it.”
The “franchise” contract calls for Joel to perform regularly at the Garden, with four performances slated for 2014 and a special date at the arena on May 9 when the piano man turns 65.
The relationship with the Garden practically spans Joel’s entire career. He first played there in 1978 and has gone on to perform there 46 times. A recent Garden performances was last December’s which benefit show for Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina victims, which raised $85 million.
“I said it in ’78 and I’ll say it again, there’s no better venue in the world.” said Joel. “The energy in this town surpasses every other place. I’m going to try one date a month as long as the tickets are in demand and I can physically do it. It’s almost like a residency here.”
In addition to his number 12 banner –a testament to Joel’s 12 consecutive Garden dates in 2006, Joel will have a number 46 banner hung from the rafters as well, celebrating his 46 shows before the franchise.
At the end of the event, Joel, Cuomo, Garden officials and all the sports legends stood up as Joel’s bold, blue franchise logo was unveiled with the words “at the garden” under his name.
“It doesn’t get old,” Said Joel when asked if all his Garden performances feel like his first. “You don’t get used to the Garden. When you play here, you hear this intensity- it’s New York. They make a noise that you don’t hear. The stage actually rocks when you perform. The first time I played here, I thought there was an earthquake.”