‘I wasn’t surprised’: Billy Joel reflects on CBS blunder that cut the end of his performance of ‘Piano Man

Billy Joel has said he “wasn’t surprised” by the network error that saw a key moment in his performance of “Piano Man” cut from a live broadcast.

The singer-songwriter was the subject of a CBS special, Billy Joel: The 100thLive at Madison Square Garden, which aired Joel as he serenaded his audience with a setlist comprising many of his most popular songs.

However, many fans were left fuming after what CBS called a “network programming timing error” saw the special end two minutes too early, right in the middle of a rousing singalong to one of his biggest hits.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Joel told Variety when asked about the incident. “I’ve never been really happy with the way music is presented on television. I think for TV people, it’s really all about the visual.

“If you’re looking at a television set, you’ll see a big screen and a little tiny speaker and that should tell you enough about where their priorities are. They have a hard time getting the audio right, and they also don’t really know how to present new music. I wasn’t surprised that it got cut off short because I’ve always kind of been cut short by TV.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Joel pointed out that he generally dislikes performing on camera: “I always feel like a geek when I’m on TV because I’m static at the piano, I can’t move around. I can’t use body language.

“It just doesn’t feel rock’n’roll when you’re on camera,” he explained. “You’re just locked in place.”

Billy Joel performing at the Grammys (AFP via Getty Images)
Billy Joel performing at the Grammys (AFP via Getty Images)

This sentiment extended to his memorable performance at the 2024 Grammys, where he debuted his new single “Turn the Lights Back On”.

“I wasn’t crazy about doing that either,” he said. “That was a TV audience, and it was done in Los Angeles, which is a showbiz town, and it was all based around their presentation.

Noting how he spotted people getting up to leave during his performance, he added: “We were up there on stage, like, ‘Do we sound bad?’ … Because usually that’s the biggest song of the night! So, me and TV, we don’t always get along.”

CBS apologised for the “Piano Man” snafu at the time and said that the show would be re-broadcast in its entirety a week later on 19 April.

“We apologise to Mr Joel, his fans, our affiliated stations, and our audience whose viewing experience was interrupted during the last song,” the network’s statement said.