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The Tale of Billy Joel’s Sigh

There is one tune that is always on the setlist, whether he likes it or not.

I recently got to enjoy Billy Joel’s concert at Madison Square Garden, where he has had a monthly residency since January 2014. I try to see him at least once a year, as he is a fantastic performer and always puts on a different show — you never know which of his tunes he will play on any given night. Except one that is always on the setlist and he saves it for his final number before the encore.

Billy Joel at MSG - 0422

The tune, as you may have guessed, is “Piano Man,” his signature song. And this night, as soon as he strapped the tell-tale harmonica to his head, the crowd roared in anticipation. Billy teased with a few short piano bits, but then he was ready, and, with his face projected on the giant screens above him…he visibly sighed…and launched into the song.

I see you, Billy. And I feel seen.

Like most of you, I feel ridiculously fortunate to do what I do for a living. Still, there are many times when I read an email or start a task or any number of daily activities that elicit an uncontrollable sigh that seems to come from a place infinitely deeper than my lungs. In my old office setting, when I had more people around me, I would often realize it mid-sigh, and apologize to my co-workers, wondering how many had escaped before I noticed.

Also by Anthony Savona: Transforming the Home Office

I am willing to bet that there are a number of you who sigh or have some other involuntary physical tell when you are doing something that you aren’t terribly excited about. You create amazing spaces and find great ways of implementing current technology, but you do it all the time. It can be hard to keep the enthusiasm you once felt for it.

Of course, I have never sighed in front of 20,000 screaming fans, but the premise is probably similar — I have no doubt that he has played that song live thousands of times. Could he skip a night? Heck no.

The woman sitting next to me had never seen him play live before and was enjoying the show, but when the harmonica came out, she turned her 10 up to a 15. And she was not alone. “Piano Man” is more than a song at these concerts — it is an experience. The house lights get turned up and, for the last chorus, the band stops playing and the crowd gets to serenade Billy and let him know that he’s “got us feeling all right.”

It’s a great moment for the fans, and he would not deny them that.

The same goes for custom installers. It may be your thousandth home theater, but it is the client’s first. And you may have to explain the same things you have explained to every other client, but it is new to the current one, so…


The real point here isn’t the sigh, but what comes after. In Billy’s case, it was yet another amazing, crowd-pleasing rendition of “Piano Man” that reinforces the reasons he can never drop it from the setlist. In the CI case, it is yet another magnificent home installation that, although it doesn’t have them screaming for an encore, will get you invited back for the next show…er, home upgrade.

Anthony Savona is the content director for Residential Systems and the VP/Content Creation for Future plc’s B2B — AV Tech Group, which includes industry-leading brands such as Systems Contractor News, Sound & Video Contractor, AV Technology, AV Network, Mix, and TWICE