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The premise of Billy Joel’s 1977 hit, “The Stranger,” is that we all have a face we hide from the outside world, a face that we only allow ourselves to put on when we’re alone. Maybe that face is steel, maybe it’s satin. It could be silk. It could be leather. The point is that we all share a tendency to hide our true selves, to put on certain faces for the benefit of the public while saving our real face for our most private moments. Interesting, then, that Mike Santoro, the frontman and the face of the Billy Joel tribute act, The Stranger, looks so much like the piano man himself.
And the resemblances between Santoro and Joel aren’t just skin deep. Both men were born and raised in Levittown, New York. Both also share a love of pop music and tinkling the ivories. Santoro, who, along with his mates – Fred Updegraft, Daniel Rodriguez, Steven Daley and Evan Bloom – will be at the Foellinger Theatre Saturday, July 1 for an evening of Joel’s greatest hits, is a self-taught musician who’s fronted a number of bands over the years. Playing the Piano Man is clearly his passion, though, perhaps because Joel, whose catalogue is 14 albums deep, seemed to be writing about Santoro and the people he saw every day growing up on Long Island. Joel, Santoro says, “told the story of every kid’s, teen’s and adult’s life in the suburbs of New York City.”
Now Santoro and the band are telling those stories, too. Stories about Anthony saving his pennies for someday, stories about Brenda and Eddie and their Italian restaurant, stories about only the good dying young and fires getting started and uptown girls living in their uptown worlds. So many stories, so many people, so many faces.