Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Elton's Loyal Saskatoon Fans

The doors didn't open until 6:30 p.m., but early on a line started to snake around the building as the crowd filtered into sold-out Credit Union Centre. Many fans, presumably those with seats in the nosebleeds, came armed with binoculars. One couple talked excitedly as they entered the building about a man who paid $4,000 at an auction to get a pair of seats to the concert, which sold out in a remarkable seven minutes.

Due to incredibly high demand for seats at John's last concert in the city, many people were looking forward to seeing him for the first time on Monday. But as evidenced by a collection of concert T-shirts, some fans were coming back for a second, or even third, time.

Sherri and Darin Manegre saw him with Billy Joel in 1995 in Las Vegas and very nearly brushed shoulders with John.
"He was leaving the MGM Grand and we were coming out and he was like this close," Sherri said, as she measured the distance apart at just a couple of inches.

John entered with a wave wearing a custom tux with a long, long coat that had "Love" embroidered on the right sleeve, the one facing the audience. He looked a little heavier than last time but proved he was a match for many 61-year-olds when he jumped onto the piano bench at the end of the song, then put one foot on the piano. The crowd erupted.

Going from art to rock (and with Johnstone switching from hollow-bodied Gibson to Flying V), the guys followed up with The Bitch is Back, the key word of which was spelled on a lighted backdrop. Staging was relatively simple, with coloured lights carrying most of the load. They shone yellow for Yellow Brick Road, with shard designs reflecting on the floor at John's feet. Video was big, too. One tiny camera fixed to the end of the piano was dedicated to the keyboard, making it look a mile long. Manned cameras showed close-ups of John and the band -- Olsson, behind the double kick drum kit in headphones and wearing white gloves, had a constant smile on his face.

Tiny Dancer was an early highlight for the crowd, a popular shoot-it-on-cellphone tune. Levon had a gospel revival flavour to it, punctuated by John standing up -- you thought he was going to kick the bench over -- and ending with John opening the lid of the big black grand and slamming it.

Believe was a sentimental favourite for John, his first No. 1 in England. John dedicated it to Richard Wright, a founding member of Pink Floyd who died Monday of cancer at 65 -- a gentle man who gave the world wonderful music. "This one is for Rick,'' said John.

JoAnn Harpell will soon forget the pain she went through to get there, but she’ll likely never forget the Elton John concert later this month.

On Monday morning, the Lower Sackville hairstylist beat out all comers in a radio station contest to earn two tickets to see Elton John in concert in Halifax on Sept. 25.

Turns out no one else who entered C100’s "What would you do for Elton John tickets?" contest came up with the idea of tattooing Elton’s face and the radio station’s logo on their leg.

"The only thing I wouldn’t have done (to get a ticket) would be to go to a scalper," Ms. Harpell said.

And she did try to get tickets when they first went on sale for the Halifax and Moncton concerts.

"I cried like a baby when I didn’t get them," she said. "I was very upset."

Then one of her clients at the Family Styles hair salon told her about the radio contest.

"We, as a rule, listen to 96.5 FM here at the shop," Ms. Harpell said in explaining why she hadn’t already known about the contest.

One of her colleagues at the salon suggested a tattoo, which was nothing new for Ms. Harpell.

"I’ve got 14 others," she said. "I’ve always loved tattoos, but I held off getting one."

Turns out her husband doesn’t like them.

But these days, she’s covered with ink, including a pansy, her favourite flower, on her leg and a pair of scissors wrapped with a pansy on her wrist.

And now she has another.

Her contest-winning tattoo was applied on her calf Monday by her favourite tattoo artist, Merle Rose, live on the radio during the station’s morning show. Late in the afternoon, her leg was still red.

"It’s really nice. I love it," she said, pulling up the leg of her capri-length pants to show off the tattoo.

It’s a pretty good likeness of Elton John.

He’s sporting a pair of large-framed glasses and around his face are some of the lyrics to the song Daniel.

Ms. Harpell picked that song to honour her older brother Robert.

"Daniel reflects the sadness I felt when my brother moved out west," she said.

Now 45, Ms. Harpell was just a teenager when her brother married and moved away.

She credits Robert for first turning her on to Elton John’s music.

Robert slept in a bedroom below hers, and Ms. Harpell recalls waking up every morning to the sounds of either the Eagles or Elton John drifting upstairs.

Next week’s concert will be the second time she has seen Elton John perform live. She and her sister travelled to Michigan to attend a concert four years ago. She was a wreck when he sang Daniel.

"I just started bawling my face off."

Others in the audience seemed to understand.

"A man in back of me touched me on the shoulder and asked whether I was all right. His wife told him, ‘Just leave her alone, she’s having an Elton moment.’ "

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