On the Beat

After building suspense, mayor announces that Billy Joel is coming to Raleigh

With television news cameras in place and an unusual amount of fanfare – the sort generally reserved for the likes of U2 and former Beatles – Mayor Nancy McFarlane held a news conference Thursday morning to announce that PNC Arena would play host to a 2014 concert by Billy Joel in February.

Joel, who last played Raleigh in 2007, is a venerable pop artist who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and still puts on an energetic, entertaining show. But you could say something similar about 1998 Hall of Fame inductees the Eagles, who will also play PNC in February and who didn’t get the mayoral treatment.

One Direction, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift and Bon Jovi have all played PNC this year and drawn big crowds. And U2 drew 50,000 people to its first Triangle show in more than a quarter-century back in 2009 at Carter-Finley Stadium. But there were no news conferences with elected officials heralding the on-sale date for any of these other shows (Dec. 14 for Joel, by the way).

The announcement ended a brief period of widespread speculation after word went out Wednesday that McFarlane would make “a major concert announcement” at PNC on Thursday morning. Most Twitterverse and Facebook speculation centered on iconic acts such as the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen.

McFarlane acknowledged that she doesn’t typically make concert announcements for PNC Arena or other venues, but said the reason is simple: “Nobody’s ever asked me before.”

She said the arena staff and Joel’s managers asked her to hold the news conference, adding that it made sense to help tout the news.

“It’s a great economic boost,” she said. “People will drive to see him. All around, it’s a good thing for the city.”

And while Joel has played in Raleigh before, McFarlane said this tour stop is special. “My understanding is he’s not going to be touring a lot more,” she said. “It’s kind of cool if you’re doing your last couple of tours, we’re one of the places you pick to come.”

As for the social media hype, McFarlane – who encouraged people to guess the performer on Twitter – says she wasn’t too surprised. “Social media is social media,” she said. “Obviously people love music and love concerts, and there’s a lot of interest.”

She said she enjoyed reading the outlandish guesses posted to Twitter, which ranged from Alvin and the Chipmunks featuring Justin Bieber to Raleigh City Councilman Bonner Gaylord fronting a boy band.

McFarlane said her favorite guess was a Beatles reunion with John Lennon and George Harrison as holograms.

“That’s kind of part of the fun,” she said. “People’s imaginations take off.”