As a young performer Anthony Mara was drawn to the storytelling brilliance of Billy Joel and for years he toyed with the idea of a touring tribute concert.
About the same time he took the plunge and started putting the show together Mara – a world class and seasoned Billy Joel performer who’s performed in every nook and cranny of Australia for more than two decades – visited his doctor after noticing some “weird feelings” which weren’t going away.
“I’ve been in a cover band for nearly 25 years and have always had a desire to do a Billy Joel show and we were just getting it up and running, about 18 month ago, it was the time I found out that I was diagnosed with MS,” he says.
“I didn’t know much about it to be honest … and look, I had doubts about doing the Billy Joel thing because I didn’t know how I was going to be.
“But I really took on a positive mindset, learnt a lot about it, learnt how I’m going to manage myself.
“Everyone is different, some are really debilitated right from the start, I’ve just got little symptoms and the doctors are telling me it’s not progressing at this stage.
“I’ve had it for 18 months, people have had it for 20 years.
“I’m taking it as it comes, but I’m also treating this as it could be my only opportunity to do this over the next two, three, four years and I’m making the most of it.”
Part of every ticket sale for Piano Man: Billy Joel Tribute Concert Australia, which performs in Albury on May 25, goes to MS research.
The concert features an eight-piece band performing hits across Billy Joel’s 50-year career, from Piano Man through to Uptown Girl and We Didn’t Start The Fire.
“We really are trying to emulate Billy in concert but we take it a little bit further with certain songs and tell some stories and inspiration behind the songs,” he says.
The majority of regular crowd that shuffles in for the shows have been fans for the longest time but Mara says the music of Billy Joel is finding a new generation of fans.
“In general it's probably the 40 to 45 plus but we’ve had them bring their kids,” he says of the audience, “and they probably come into the show wondering who the hell Billy Joel is and they leave as fans.”