Billy Joel Fans Not Feeling Alright After Network Cuts 100th Madison Square Garden Show Broadcast During ‘Piano Man’

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Sunday night (April 14) was slated to be a triumphant first for Billy Joel. After half a century in the music business, the Piano Man was headed to prime time for his first-ever broadcast network concert special, The 100th: Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden – The Greatest Arena Run of All Time.

Announced during this year’s Super Bowl and taped on March 28 during Joel’s 100th performance at the legendary New York city venue, the show was slated to run from 9-11 p.m. on CBS. Unfortunately, the network’s live coverage of the Masters golf tournament pushed back the start of the Joel concert’s airing, which meant that the climactic ending of the show was cut off for many viewers to throw to the local news.

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To make matters worse, according to posts from livid viewers, the screen went black at the worst possible time, near the celebratory ending of Joel’s signature sing-along ballad, 1973’s “Piano Man.” “#BillyJoel #MSG #100 concert not only starts a half hour late, but then you cut off the last 3-4 minutes for local news to start at 1130?,” read one rage-filled tweet that opened with a not polite, four-letter salutation to the Tiffany network. “Are you serious. Absolutely pathetic decision making, on an event that’s been advertised for MONTHS, and you f–k it up.”

In a statement to Billboard on Monday (April 15), a spokesperson for CBS explained the snafu, writing, “A network programming timing error ended last night’s Billy Joel special approximately two minutes early in the Eastern and Central Time Zones. We apologize to Mr. Joel, his fans, our affiliated stations, and our audience whose viewing experience was interrupted during the last song. Due to the overwhelming demand from his legion of fans, BILLY JOEL: THE 100TH – LIVE AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN will be rebroadcast in its entirety on CBS on April 19th at 9:00PM ET/PT.”

The abrupt cut-away from the broadcast had some X users comparing to the infamous moment in 1968 when NBC jumped from a nail-biter New York Jets/Oakland Raiders football game to switch to children’s movie Heidi.

“CBS has been promoting the Billy Joel concert special every two minutes for WEEKS. So what better way to air it than to preempt it for a half hour and the cut him off MID-PIANO MAN? C’mon guys,” read another annoyed tweet. That same fan further explained that she’d spent “three wonderful years with CBS and I love the network dearly… but as a media professional, I am straight up confounded by this decision.”

In fan video of the moment, Joel is leaning into the denouement of the song, singing, “And the piano it sounds like a carnival/ And the microphone smells like a beer,” amid footage of fans at the MSG show singing along and cheering as the screen abruptly jumps to local news. To be fair, the cut-off came near the end of the final verse, with just a round of choruses, and around a minute, left to go. According to one report, the edit only affected viewers in the Eastern and Central time zones.

Before CBS’ official statement, a staffer at one of the affected stations offered an apology, with 10 Tampa Bay sports director Evan Closky writing, “As a man who grew up right next to Billy Joel’s hometown, who went to The Last Play at Shea, it was my duty to apologize to everyone about cutting off our telecast of Billy Joel tonight. Not to get into the weeds, but there was a special report after the Masters and it wasn’t accounted for by the powers that be beyond this building.”

Joel will be back at MSG on April 26 and May 9 for two more gigs at his home-away-from-home, before hitting the road this summer for a run of baseball stadium gigs that run through November.

Check out some of the angry tweets below.

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