Elton John reinvents greatest hits at Huntington CenterWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
If classic rock can be defined as songs you don’t like but know all the words to, Elton John’s catalog is overflowing with exceptions that debunk the rule: songs you may not realize you know but love as you find yourself singing along.
For nearly three hours during his April 25 “Rocket Man” concert at Huntington Center, John played extended jam versions of two dozen of his hits, from his 1970 debut “Your Song” to a new track set for release on a Leon Russel duet CD in October.
More than 8,000 fans screamed, applauded, sang and urged the 63-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member through a muscular set that showcased a violent workout on John’s Yamaha grand piano.
John’s vocal delivery is more staccato than during his glory days, with less elongation to stress lyrics, and, post-vocal chord surgery, he no longer reaches for the higher notes, but his performance was strong, clear and seemed to gain energy as the night wore on; his five band members took breaks at various points in the concert, but John never left the stage. John, dressed in a split-tail maestro jacket with an image of his white-suited self from “Greatest Hits” crawling out of a crocodile mouth, sang behind sunglasses bejeweled with “EJ” and a half-smile. He wasted little energy on between-song chatter, but he did walk the length of the stage several times, mouthing “thank you” to fans and acknowledging specific John-themed articles of clothing worn by those in the first few rows.
For $25, the company simfyLive provided a flash drive and Web link with the April 25 Toledo show in full. A post-concert listen to the sound board-quality mp3 files reveals a band in absolute perfect synch. Longtime John drummer Nigel Olsson and guitar virtuoso Davey Johnstone are not in the Rock Hall with John, but they deserve unquestioned consideration as two of rock’s most consistent and accomplished sidemen. Kim Bullard’s keyboards provided everything from synth effects on “Rocket Man” to harmonica for “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” stoic bassist Bob Birch maintained a rock-steady foundation with John’s piano and percussionist John Mahon provided flourishes that represented the only musical indulgences of the night.
Highlights included intense runs through “Tiny Dancer,” “Madman Across the Water” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” one of rock’s coldest break-up songs. A 14-minute version of “Rocket Man” brought the band together behind John in an alternatively baroque and rollicking jam that gave the radio staple new life.
John acknowledged the 14 years between his Toledo visits with an earnest end-of-show comment: “It’s not all about Chicago and L.A.; it’s about places like this, and coming here tonight was such a pleasure. You lifted us so high.”
Download the April 25 Toledo concert at the Web site http://simfylive.com.