Column: Drum roll: Rady’s Shell’s secret interpreter is Billy Joel

Former CBS News 8 anchor Barbara-Lee Edwards didn’t expect to see Billy Joel perform in downtown San Diego on Monday night.

“Nobody was,” she said.

She and her husband were downtown that evening and noticed an event was about to take place at the Rady Shell in Jacobs Park behind the San Diego Convention Center.

“We looked around for a while and started to walk away,” she said. “Then I heard Billy Joel sing. My husband said, ‘I think it’s live.’ I said, ‘No way.’ Then I heard him talking, and we ran over there.

They found a space in the shrubbery that offered a great view of the stage and spent nearly two hours listening to the Grammy-winning icon and his band play many of his greatest hits.

CBS 8 anchor Barbara-Lee Edwards (left) was interviewed by Marcella Lee in October 2021 as she officially retired from her job.

(Courtesy picture)

The surprise performance had been shrouded in secrecy. Another spectator, a longtime Billy Joel fan, had walked past the Rady Shell earlier in the day and asked the set-up team who was going to perform.

They said they weren’t allowed to tell him, but teased, “You’ll find out who it is.”

Turns out the gig was a private corporate gig hosted by Daimler Truck North America (DTNA). It was the invitation-only trucking giant’s 2022 Customer Appreciation Event, which was attended by about 1,200 people (and several other lucky passers-by who, like Edwards, peeked in from the perimeter of the outdoor room).

“There was a lot of energy. People were having a great time,” said Seth Clevenger, an attendee and articles editor for industry publication Transport Topics. Many spoke the words and danced between the tables.

He was there to cover the American Trucking Association’s annual management conference and expo, which kicked off Saturday at the convention center. Daimler, which makes Freightline and Western Star trucks, was one of the companies present.

For years, Daimler has sponsored a separate surprise concert at the ATA convention as a thank you to its top customers.

Last year, the mystery artist was Bon Jovi in ​​Nashville. Three years ago it was Luke Bryan and Maddie & Tae at Petco Park. The event also took place in San Diego in 2014. That year, the Eagles gave a surprise performance on the flight deck of the USS Midway, DTNA spokesman Fred Ligouri said.

Ligouri was mum on the cost of the business to bring in a big name artist such as Billy Joel.

The intimate audience of around 1,200 was a change of pace for the mega-musician who drew more than 40,000 fans to his sold-out Petco Park concert before the pandemic. His monthly concerts at NY Madison Square Garden, where he reportedly earns at least $2 million per show, pack 20,000. He rarely performs any other concerts each year except for a few stadium dates.

Clevenger, who has covered the Trucking Association for the past six years, posted about Billy Joel’s appearance. He noted that Carrie Underwood and the Florida Georgia Line performed in 2018, Jason Aldean in 2017, the Rolling Stones in 2016 and Paul McCartney in 2014.

It’s enough to make you want to go buy a Daimler freight truck to get on the customer invite list.

Billy Joel played piano and guitar at his private concert on October 24 here at Rady Shell for a corporate event.

Billy Joel played piano and guitar at his private concert on October 24 here at Rady Shell for a corporate event.

(Seth Clevenger/Transportation Topics)

After people flocked to the room, which was set up with dinner tables, lounge seats and Adirondack chairs, Daimler CEO John O’Leary and senior vice president of sales and marketing, David Carson, took to the stage and dribbled out clues as to the identity of the guest artist.

He had sold 150 million records. He had won six Grammys. He was from Long Island, NY Mystery and guesswork sent the crowd into a frenzy. When Billy Joel’s name was announced, he launched into a song on the piano.

“Can you imagine being on vacation and walking by the marina (Fifth Avenue Landing) and then hearing Billy Joel play,” Ligouri says of passers-by.

“Where we were there were maybe 40 or 50 people,” Edwards says of the strangers, “and a lot of people were singing every word of every song.”

She says Billy Joel included local references, replacing “San Diego” in place of another city in some song lyrics.

Clevenger recalls changing the lyrics of “Piano Man” from “Saturday” to “Monday” in one place – “That’s a pretty good crowd for a Monday… And the manager is smiling at me.” The ad-lib drew a few laughs from the Monday night crowd.

He sang through a list of 18 hits, including “My Life”, “Don’t Ask Me Why”, “Just the Way You Are”, “Movin’ Out”, “She’s Always a Woman to Me”, ” Only the Good Die Young”, “The River of Dreams”, “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, “Uptown Girl”, “Zanzibar”.

When the attendees thought the show was over, he returned to sing two encores: “Tush” and “A Hard Day’s Night”.

The performance was similar, Edwards says, to her Madison Square Garden concert she saw four years ago with her daughter. While watching, she contacted her daughter on Facetime and lifted the phone, giving her a clip from Monday’s live broadcast.

“It would be very easy for an artist to cut a Monday night short, but Billy Joel played for almost two hours,” Clevenger said. “That’s all everyone was talking about the next day.”

Business picked up on Tuesday as U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke to the roughly 2,900 American Trucking Association attendees about President Biden’s infrastructure law, freight transportation issues, detention and of workforce development.

Country singer Walker Hayes, of Applebee’s ‘Get All Fancy Like’ viral song fame, performed at Tuesday’s convention center banquet – which was not attended by Applebee.

About Julie Gray

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