Half a century into his career, Billy Joel has taken on a yearlong residency at Madison Square Garden that changes the game for the arena and performer. Joel talks about his career in an exclusive backstage interview on opening night

"It's too slow," Billy Joel says to drummer Chuck Burgi. He and his band are onstage in an empty Madison Square Garden, sound-checking "Baby Grand," a bluesy, boozy gem from 1987's "The Bridge." "Pick it up a bit."

Wearing a stocking cap and wool coat, Joel is dressed appropriately for both the frigid New York temperature outside and the air inside the arena, where temporary flooring covers hockey ice for the NHL's Rangers, one of the other franchises that calls the Garden home.

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