Elton John / New York, NY

The last time I saw Elton John perform was in the early 90s and I was worried that at age 58 he had slowed down a bit. Well, I was wrong!! Age has definitely not affected this performer. This night was like a triathlon competition with much length and three distinct parts. Starting exactly at 8:10 p.m., he began a 3 ½ hour show that started off with songs from his latest album ‘Peachtree Road’. He acknowledged that it is sometimes hard for audiences to sit through songs they do not know, but it did not seem like this audience had any problems. This section of the concert was highlighted by the eight-piece gospel choir (The Voice of Atlanta) and Elton’s easy breezy chat style with the audience while explaining what the songs meant. It seemed like it was going to be a ‘serious’ night of music – Elton was even dressed in conservative pin-striped tails. I was wondering to myself if age and love (he has been with partner David for 12 years) had taken the edge off of this over-the-top performer. Again, I was wrong.

After about one hour of seriousness he changed pace by playing a string of tunes from his Captain Fantastic era. What has often been lost amidst all the loud costumes and outspokenness is the fact that Elton John is a very talented piano player and composer. Many of the songs from this era show his talent. Often it seems as though he used all 88 keys for many of his songs. ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ began a series of standing ovations. Elton’s five-piece backing band (Nigel Olsson-drummer, Davey Johnson-guitarist, Guy Babylon-keyboards, Bob Birch-bass, John Mahon-percussion) was quite tight and it shows that a few of them have been with him over 30 years. The show was also enhanced by a large LED screen behind the stage that provided a multi-coloured light show and two large video screens on both sides of the stage. It is also amazing to look around at the crowd at an Elton John show – it is made up of every age and colour imaginable. It is a testament to the wide ranging popularity of this artist which has allowed him to remain at the top of the charts for almost 40 years.

The distinctive opening keys of ‘Bennie and the Jets’ began a segment of the show I would classify as ‘Greatest Hits,’ one classic tune after another. The fans on the floor section of Madison Square Gardens all rushed to the front of the stage at this point and it became a dance party/sing-a-long. Demonstrating his musical longevity and respect amongst his peers, Elton dedicated his songs ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ and ‘Empty Garden’ to his departed friends Ray Charles and John Lennon respectively. The highlight of the evening for me was a superb and moving version of ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’, which was made even better by the fact that The Voice Of Atlanta choir came out to accompany Elton again for the last few songs. ‘Levon’, ‘Saturday Night’s All Right For Fighting’ and ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ were also superior. Before Elton began his first encore he spent what must have been 5 minutes signing autographs for the fans at the edge of the stage. Despite all his eccentricities and reputed diva-like behaviour, Elton has never forgotten to acknowledge the fact that he is where he is because of his fans. He even dedicated his second encore song ‘Your Song’ (which he performed solo) to all his fans. It seems to me that the whole show was a gift from the artist to his audience.

Setlist:
1) Weight of the World
2) Porch Swing Tupelo
3) Answer In The Sky
4) Turn The Lights Out When You Leave
5) My Elusive Drug
6) They Call Her The Cat
7) Freaks In Love
8) All That I’m Allowed
9) Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
10) Bitter Finger
11) Tell Me When The Whistle Blows
12) Someone Saved My Life Tonight
13) Meal Ticket
14) Better Off Dead
15) We All Fall In Love Sometimes
16) Curtains
17) Funeral For A Friend
18) Love Lies Bleeding
19) Bennie And The Jets
20) Daniel
21) Take Me To The Pilot
22) Rocket Man
23) I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
24) Tiny Dancer
25) Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
26) Philadelphia Freedom
27) Sad Songs (Say So Much)
28) Empty Garden
29) Levon
30) Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
31) The Bitch Is Back
32) Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)

Encores
Crocodile Rock
Your Song

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