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Billy Joel on Touring at His Age

As you may have read, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has taken over Madison Square Garden for their 25th-anniversary concert, which concludes tonight with sets from U2, Eric Clapton, and Metallica, among others. Vulture has been stalking the press room and the official gifting lounge backstage, where yesterday we happened upon Billy Joel as he finished rehearsing a killer version of “New York State of Mind” with Bruce Springsteen, only to have a T-Mobile myTouch 3G and some Zihr cologne immediately thrust upon him. “Let’s go somewhere quiet,” he shouted, gesturing for us to follow him along a long, dark hallway into his dressing room — it’s not as kinky as it sounds — where he sucked on a throat lozenge and seemed to be nursing temporary deafness.

How different is touring now than it was in your early days?
I’m a lot fuckin’ older than I used to be, and it is really about the performance, I’m not trying to promote new material. Do you know how hard it is to hit the notes I wrote in my twenties now that I’m in my sixties? It’s really fuckin’ hard man; you gotta be careful.

When was the last time you trashed a dressing room?
I’ve never trashed a dressing room; it’s where I live, why should I fuck it up? It seems kind of stupid, it’s like setting your house on fire.

Do you ever have underwear thrown at you onstage?
Yeah, once in a while, but it’s not like it used to be, now they’re weird sizes and strange shapes. But yeah, once in a while we get a nice pair of panties.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever had thrown onstage?
People. We had this one guy thrown up onstage last tour who was trashed, so it was fun kicking him off — better than trashing my dressing room. [Laughs]

Who in your band rolls the best joints?
I have no idea, as I haven’t smoked pot since the sixties. I don’t think anybody really smokes pot anymore.

Never mind rock, have the gift suites gotten better over the last 25 years?
I didn’t even know what the hell that was, I thought it was for Hollywood award shows, I walked in and there are men’s colognes, and earphones. I say, “What the fuck is this?” People saying, “Do you want this? Do you want this?” Why are you giving me shit? I can afford all this stuff, I don’t need it for free.

Billy Joel on Touring at His Age