Billy Joel Merely Cutting Back On Pop Music, Live Shows

Though he'll focus on classical and cease touring, he won't abandon what built his career.

Singer/songwriter Billy Joel, who recently turned his attention to composing classical music, said on Monday he hasn't ruled out writing more pop songs.

And though he now insists his touring days are behind him, he didn't rule out playing more concerts.

"Those days are over for me," Joel said of life on the road, during an online chat held to promote his new live album, 2000 Years — The Millennium Concert, released Tuesday (May 2).

"But that doesn't mean I'm not going to perform a concert again," he continued. "I honestly don't think I'm going to do that many concerts in the future because I really want to direct my energy into writing music rather than performing it."

For the foreseeable future, Joel said, he intends to focus on classical music, and is working on demos for an album with a classical pianist.

"But I might do pop, too," he said. "I haven't been motivated to write songs for the past seven years, [but] I'm not going to close a door on anything."

Joel's new album, culled from his New Year's Eve performance at Madison Square Garden, begins with a hint of his classical future: a rendition of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

From there, Joel delivers such hits as "My Life" (RealAudio excerpt of studio version), "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" and "We Didn't Start the Fire" while sliding in an occasional cover, including the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman" and Sly & the Family Stone's "Dance to the Music."

The New Year's Eve gig saw a tuxedo-clad Joel "put on a show that no one there could ever forget," according to one fan in attendance. "He was on," Nancy Welch, 37, wrote in an e-mail earlier this year. "Getting it all on an album is a great treat, but I don't need a recording to refresh my memory — despite all the cocktails."

Joel said that he had been surprised at how smoothly the show had gone. "It was the last concert I had planned, on my last tour, and it just happened to be in New York, my hometown, and at Madison Square Garden, so we had a longer show and played songs ... we hadn't done in many years."

The concert capped a year in which the artist was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Joel also received the Diamond Award from the Recording Industry Association of America when shipments of his Greatest Hits Vol. I & II reached the 10 million mark in the U.S. Meanwhile, his worldwide album sales passed 100 million last year, according to Columbia Records.

Joel broke onto the pop scene with his second album, Piano Man (1973), which featured the hit title track (RealAudio excerpt).