I apologize for pretending that the Billy Joel concert is a big deal.
BILLY JOEL IS coming back to Charlotte.
Yesterday, I went to a press conference about that fact. After the event, I went back to my desk and transcribed some quotes, wrote some background, and pressed “Publish.” As I sat back and folded my hands behind my head, I congratulated myself for another gem in the bag. But it wasn’t a gem. It was lazy, and it wasn’t honest.
The truth was that yesterday’s Billy Joel reveal was a bummer—a big, grand-piano-sized bummer. I didn’t tell you that part, and I’m sorry.
I like Billy Joel. My whole family does, in fact. My wife and her college roommate know every word to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Our baby is regularly subjected to a lullabye version of “Piano Man” in the nursery. But in an objective sense, I do not see the merit of this press conference. Shortly after the presser, I visited my editor’s office and complained, throwing papers around like they do in the movies. This was the thrust of it:
“They’ve done a press conference like this before. In June 2010, Mayor Foxx announced that a month later, Paul McCartney would be coming to the arena the following month, returning to North Carolina after 17 years. A bomb had been dropped. ‘A Beatle. Is coming to Charlotte. Next month.’ But let’s look at the facts: Joel played Raleigh last year. And this concert isn’t a month away; it’s 310 days away. And with all due respect—and he is due a great deal of respect—no fanfare is needed for a Billy Joel concert six years after he was here with Elton John. Joel is a Big Deal as a performer, but this concert isn’t.”
But I didn’t say any of that in this blog—my arts blog. The one I’m paid to write. My job isn't just to transcribe some quotes, write some background, and click "Publish." It wasn't time to shut my laptop.
So this is the real reaction piece: Billy Joel is coming back to Charlotte, a city that has too much going on for us to pretend this is big news. When long-time cultural leaders say that the city has evolved, they're not kidding. Our stages are consistently filled with the best talent the world has to offer, and in some cases, it's home-grown. We're a thriving city, and we'll continue to become more cultured and more recognized and yes, more of an entertainment destination.
So when they decide to hold a series of press conferences for Joel’s upcoming dates across the U.S., this single, sweeping PR move becomes contextualized to the 14 cultural communities it hits. The implication may be, that we’re lucky to have him here, but there’s a reason few are ecstatic: Joel is a big deal, but we’ve had more than enough access to him.
We are lucky, though. We're all fortunate to live here. Especially me, the guy who gets to write this blog, and once in a while, correct the times when he falls a bit short.