Billy Joel's last three concerts in Tampa have all drawn crowds of more than 20,000, and his sold-out show on Friday at Amalie Arena probably will, too. It's a far cry from 1974, when his first show in the city was canceled due to low ticket sales.
It's no secret why Joel remains such a draw. His success as a singer-songwriter is virtually unparalleled: 150 million records sold, 33 Top 40 hits, a shelf full of Grammys, almost every lifetime achievement award you can name. As long as there are pianos, we will have Piano Man. And Scenes From an Italian Restaurant. And Vienna. And dozens upon dozens more.
But it's now been 25 years since River of Dreams, the album Joel insisted would be his proper pop swan song. And in those 25 years, Joel has played Tampa more than he ever did back when he was still releasing new music.
Is that really how he thought retirement would go?
"No, I actually thought I wouldn't be really working at this point in my life," he said in a recent phone interview from his home in Long Island. "I thought once you got to be, I think, 50, you gotta quit rock and roll; you're too old for this thing. This is a kids' job. But these other people kept pushing the envelope. The Stones kept going, McCartney kept going, Dylan kept going. The Eagles are still going. All these bands are still rocking out, and it's, Wait a minute, so who says you gotta retire? This is what I do. I've come to understand that this is who I am. This is what I do. And it's probably keeping me alive."
For more with Billy Joel — including his thoughts on Donald Trump, his old buddy Elton John's farewell tour and his life since buying property in Florida — click here for our interview.