Billy Joel is famous for modern-day classics like “Uptown Girl,” “Just The Way You Are,” and “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” among many other chart-topping hits. Photo / Myrna Suárez
Excited fans of Billy Joel have started to flock to Auckland’s Eden Park for tonight’s concert – the first time an international musician has rocked the stadium.
There is a long procession of Billy Joel fans walking over the Bond St bridge and through the Kingsland shops to Eden Park. It’s a constant procession of fedoras, sunnies, backpacks, shorts, animal prints, sneakers, pointed boots and happy faces.
Several of the roads around Kingsland, just a few blocks from Eden Park, where Joel plays, have been closed with detours. Witch hats and signs denoting a “special event” line the Kingsland strip.
Pete and Di Wright had flown in from Dunedin to see Joel’s concert tonight. They’re both big fans, but they’ve never seen him live.” I missed the opportunity to provide security for him at his concert in Melbourne in 87. Too busy with work. So it was always on the list and here we are,” Pete said.
Leeann and Mark Phillips traveled from Wellington to see Joel. They were both glad that the weather turned out for the event.” He’s a little older than us, but we’ve been into his music for a very long time. I heard he’s doing a really good gig,” said Leeann Phillips.
Jill Sunnex flew in from Christchurch to see Joel and commented on the beautiful weather in Auckland so far.
Sunnex said she’s lucky her son lives near Eden Park, so she had easy accommodation for the concert.
When asked how long she’s been a fan of Joel, she laughed and said “you can’t ask that. It’s been around for a long time.”
Peter Todd attended the concert with Sunnex and traveled from Palmerston North.
He was confident the rain would stay away, but he had a raincoat with him just in case.
Both of them had never seen Joel in concert before and seemed very happy that the night had finally arrived.
The writing is on the wall
Before the gig, Joel signed the Eden Park Turf Shed wall. His signature joins others including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Benee, Rita Ora and the Indian cricket team.
Auckland’s train network will be closed this weekend, disrupting travel plans for those going to Billy Joel’s concert at Eden Park tonight.
An Auckland Transport spokesman said “frequent” buses would replace trains. Services from noon until the end of the scheduled services are included in the concert ticket.
Special event buses will run directly to and from Eden Park, but Auckland Transport warns they will fill up quickly and has warned fans to allow plenty of time for travel.
Doors open at 5pm and fans should aim to be seated by 7. The MetService has forecast the odd shower for the gig.
Regular journeys from the city center start departing from Quay St as well as along the Northern Busway at 4.30pm. Services from Alexandra Park, Greenlane, will start from 3.30pm. Return journeys start at 22.30.
A park-and-ride facility will be made available in the city center and at Alexandra Park.
Two regularly scheduled routes that pass near the stadium, the 64 and 22N, would have more frequent service. Route 64 will have a 6-minute departure every 6 minutes, and 22N will have a 15-minute frequency.
A park-and-walk will be set up at Westfield St Lukes, almost 2km from Eden Park.
“On-street parking on roads near Eden Park is also likely to be busy,” said Gordon, “so allow extra time if you plan to park on a nearby street and walk to the venue “.
The number of taxi ranks will also be increased to four around the stadium for anyone getting to and from the concert by rideshare.
Rail shutdown ‘inevitable’
KiwiRail’s director of operations for capital projects David Gordon said a full closure of the city’s network was planned and “blocked” for rail improvement work and track laying as part of the City Rail Link (CRL) project.
“I fully appreciate the frustration that Aucklanders are feeling at the disruption to their train services. We are working on major improvements to the Auckland network to build a world-class railway for the city.”
The work had to be completed before the network’s longer Christmas shutdown.
The travel disruption for Joel’s concert was unavoidable, Gordon said, because the closing had already been moved to accommodate an event in early November.
“We saw each other again, but with so many other major events happening in Auckland before Christmas, including Christmas in the Park and the Santa Parade, it just wasn’t possible to move it again.”
Once the work was complete, along with the CRL, Aucklanders would have “more frequent, convenient and reliable” rail services, Gordon said.
AT acting chief executive Mark Lambert said there would be buses, park and ride and ‘park and ride’ options for concert goers.
“Instead of trains we run a number of event buses from the city center to Eden Park as well as express buses from the North Shore along the Northern Busway.”
He asked those who attended the concert to plan their trips in advance.
“We expect the event buses to be heavily patronised, with longer waiting times likely.”
History in the making
Billy Joel is Eden Park’s first post-Covid international artist.
The singer-songwriter will play his first New Zealand stadium show in 25 years tonight.
After a hiatus imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s shaping up to be a big summer for New Zealand’s international concerts.
Billy Joel isn’t the only world-renowned artist to perform at Eden Park this month. Guns N’ Roses will play the same venue next weekend on Saturday 10th December.