It’s Rich Larson from Minnesota. You probably don’t remember me, but we’ve met on a couple different occasions, once outside the KQRS radio studio in Golden Valley during a rainstorm, and once on the upper tarmac at Alpine Valley Music Theater when you were riding around on your bike. There was also that time that you and Tommy Byrnes just about ran over me with a golf cart in the concourse at Cyclone Stadium in Ames, Iowa, but we didn’t really talk then.
I’m writing today to ask for a favor. It’s a simple one, really. Tomorrow, Friday, July 28, 2017, would you please include “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” in your set? You haven’t played that song in the Twin Cities since probably July 20, 1979. I was not in attendance on November 1, 1982 when you played the St. Paul Civic Center, but my I know you did not play “Miami 2017” that night. The next time you came to the Twin Cities, on April 7, 1984, I was 14 years old, and
you were the first rock concert I ever saw. I have not missed a single show you’ve played in the Twin Cities since then. Including the aforementioned shows I was at in Wisconsin and Iowa, I believe the show on Friday night will be the 22nd time I’ve seen you perform. Not once have I heard you play “Miami 2017” live.
I am a long time fan. Not only was the show in 1984 my first concert, Glass Houses was the first album I ever bought with my own money (on cassette at Musicland in Southdale, the worlds first fully enclosed shopping mall). Your music has provided a soundtrack for a large chunk of my life. My first kiss happened largely because the girl was a big fan of your song “I Don’t Want to Be Alone.” Songs like “This Night,” “While the Night is Still Young,” “Sleeping With the Television On,” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “You’re my Home,” “A Matter of Trust,” “Stop in Nevada,” “Tomorrow is Today,” “New York State of Mind,” “Get it Right the First Time,” and “This is the Time” accompanied my journey from adolescence to adulthood. But it’s always been “Miami 2017” that has captured my imagination like no other.
I have no specific reason for loving that song as much as I do. The intro and the piano riff are gorgeous. The lyrics, written about an apocalyptic destruction of New York City, were once thought to be fantasy, but for sixteen years now have sounded more like a weird premonition. It is simply one of my favorite songs. And like Captain Ahab, I have pursued the song with something akin to obsession. Over the course of my life, I have assembled a Bucket List of songs I need to see performed. Most of them – Dylan doing “Tangled Up in Blue,” Neil Young doing “Pocahontas,” Johnny Cash doing “Ring of Fire,” Springsteen doing “Rosalita” – have been checked off the list. I doubt very much I’ll ever see Led Zeppelin do “Immigrant Song,” and I know that I’ll never see Bowie do “Suffragette City,” so “Miami 2017” is really the last song I have left.
This is not meant to be a demand, and I hope I’m not coming off as self-entitled. You certainly do not owe me anything. I can never thank you enough for the music you’ve given me; and not just yours. If not for your direction, I most likely would not have discovered Ray Charles, whose music I have come to treasure. I certainly would not have looked into Dave Brubeck were it not for you. Can you imagine living life without sitting down once in a while to listen to Time Out? I know you can’t, and it was your passion for that album that led me there. If I have any appreciation for jazz at all, it started with you telling me to listen to “Take Five.”
Logistically, I can understand why you haven’t played “Miami 2017” for your Minnesota fans in almost forty years. It’s a true NYC song, no question. It was not one of your big hits, nor, for that matter, was the Turnstiles album outside of the New York area. You and your New York fans share a bond with that song which many of us will never share. But you do have passionate fans all over the world, including right here in Minnesota, and we have a deep love for all the songs in your catalogue, not just the huge top forty hits. It would be a really nice tip of the cap to your longtime fans if you played us that song. So many of us have thought that we’d have to wait until 2017 to hear you play the song. And here we are.
The way I see it, this is my last best chance to see you play “Miami 2017.” I know it makes regular appearances at your monthly shows at Madison Square Garden, but I’m a working man. The opportunities I would have to hop a flight to New York and score a ticket for one of those shows are non-existent. But, what with it now being 2017 and everything, I know the song has slipped into some of your sets outside of the Big City. You played it in Cleveland a couple weeks ago. You played it on Stephen Colbert’s show this past January. And fittingly, it was in the sets when you played in Florida earlier in the year. I really hope you’ll play it tomorrow night in Minneapolis.
Again, you don’t owe us anything. Your music has been enough, and we are deeply grateful for every last note. But as long as you’re here, and as long as we’re here, and as long as it’s actually 2017, the time is perfect.
Thanks for listening. I’ll see you tomorrow. Have a good show.
editor’s note: On July 28, Billy Joel did not play Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) at Target Field. Neither Mr. Larson nor Mr. Joel could be reached for comment.