Saturday, February 27, 2010

Grace Jones - Oscar's Special Guest


Entertainer Grace Jones is to perform at the upcoming 18th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Viewing Party in Los Angeles, organizers said.

The fundraising gala is to take place March 7 at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.

"Grace Jones is not only an amazing performer, but a dear friend and a fellow activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS," John said in a statement. "Without a doubt, Grace will put on a show for our guests that will have them talking for years to come. It is an absolute honor to have Grace as part of this evening that means so much to the foundation."

- UPI.com

Billy Joel: "There never was a Summer Tour"



“There was never a tour booked this summer!” says Billy Joel, responding to Internet claims that he pulled the plug on a summer tour with Elton John. He continues, “Obviously, this has the smell of a really juicy story: ‘Why did they cancel? Did Billy and Elton have a fight? What’s going on?’ The truth is, there’s nothing going on. I had made up my mind a long time ago that I wasn’t going to work this year.”

Though the duo are currently performing together on their recurring Face to Face tour, these shows — which swept up the West Coast, and continue until March 11th in Buffalo — are make-up shows, rescheduled from canceled 2009 dates. Joel insists that rumors about 2010 summer tour were leaked by insiders at certain venues around the country. He explains, “There were a couple stories that came out that we were supposed to play Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, and I think Pittsburgh was mentioned. Booking agents hold real estate. They like to research what’s available when, to see if they can put together a series of dates. Then they’ll come back to the artist and say, ‘Look, if you wanted to, you could play such and such and such.’ These rumors probably came from somebody at one of those venues who had to be a big shot and call the local newspaper and say, ‘Hey, Billy and Elton are going to play here this summer.’ ”

Elton John even perpetuated the story himself. In a recent interview, he was quoted saying, “Billy just wants to take a year off. I’m so disappointed because when we came to Wrigley Field last year, it was like playing in the church of baseball.” Joel responds, “Elton and I don’t really sit down and discuss our future plans with each other. We see each other backstage and we hang out and kibitz and talk about music and life. When Elton did that interview, he’d just found out from his booking agent that I wasn’t going to be working this summer, and therefore Elton’s quote puts a spin on it that I’d changed my mind all of a sudden, or suddenly decided to cancel the tour, which is nonsense. There was never a tour booked!”

Before their February 22nd show in Denver, Joel approached John about his comments to the press. “When I saw him backstage, I said, ‘Elton, what were you told about this supposed summer tour?’ He goes, ‘Well, I just found out you weren’t going to be working this year, and I was heartbroken because I was looking forward to doing it.’ ” In his statement to the press, John also seemed to convey that their hugely successful Face to Face tour — which has brought in big crowds since 2004 — would be ending for good in Albany. “We’ll probably pick it up again,” says Joel. “It’s always fun playing with him.” He insists there is no bad blood. In Denver, their conversation ended thusly: “Elton said, ‘Are you mad at me?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not mad, I just want to clarify what’s going on here.’ Everything’s fine.”

Joel says the thought of retirement looms in his mind, but he’s always drawn back to the stage. “I see pictures of myself onstage, and I look at them and say, ‘There has to be some kind of mandatory retirement age for doing this gig,’ and then I watched the Super Bowl and saw the Who and I figure, ‘Well, I guess there is no mandatory retirement age.’ ‘I hope I die before I get old,’ — that went out the window. It’s always possible that I’ll tour again, whether it’s with Elton or on my own. I love my job. For now I’m going to stop, but I won’t sit around for the rest of my life and rot.”

Joel claims last year was a rough one. “There was an incident with my daughter that was very shocking,” he says of daughter Alexa’s suicide attempt. “I got divorced. I worked a lot. I promised myself more personal time this year. I’m going to Italy, and I’ll probably go to Paris. I’ll probably take my boat to New England and hang out on the coast. I’ll ride my motorcycle. I’ll just be a bum.”

- Rolling Stone

Friday, February 26, 2010

Elton to Appear on "The View" - Mar. 11


Sir Elton will contribute to the Hot Topics section of ABC's "The View", live, on March 11.

This wil be his fifth appearance on the hit show.

Billy Elliot Tour Coming to St Louis


Dance St. Louis and the Fox Theatre have teamed up to bring “Billy Elliot the Musical” the hit show about a boy who loves ballet, to the Fox stage from August 10-28, 2011.

Subscribers to the Fox’s Broadway series and to the Dance St. Louis season will find the show on their 2010-2011 schedules; renewal information goes out soon. Individual tickets will go on sale later.

The stage musical, which won 10 Tony awards in New York and four Olivier awards in London, is based on a hit English movie that inspired fans around the world – among them, singer/songwriter Elton John.

”Elton John is the reason this show exists,” said Fox Associates producer Mike Isaacson. “When he saw the (2000) movie, he wept. He said it was his story,” the story of a boy whose parents are baffled by his talent. John wrote the music for the show; the lyrics and the book are by Lee Hall.

In the show, Billy is a small-town boy who discovers his gift when he happens into a ballet class where he is, predictably, the only boy. His working-class family, stressed by financial pressure and labor troubles, hardly knows how to cope with Billy’s talent. Ballet is far from what the parents, especially the father, expected from their son. But how many children ever turn into the people their parents expected?

A big production with a large cast (including, for each production, three boys who alternate in the demanding title role), the show’s U.S. road tour opens in Chicago in March.

Dance St. Louis director Michael Uthoff believes that “Billy Elliot” has considerable appeal for two audiences that don’t always go for the same things, the dance audience and the Broadway audience. “It reminds me of the end of the Cold War, when dance did so much to bring the East and the West together,” he said. “This show breaks down barriers.”

- STLtoday.com

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Elton to Appear at Denmark Music Fest.


For the first time ever, the Elton John band will play a Danish festival.

"Jelling Music Festival is proud to present a world-renowned celebrity, Sir Elton John on top of an otherwise very versatile program," says festival director Lars "Charlie" Mortensen.

Elton John is one of the most successful musicians ever, with over 250 million. albums sold, the British singer and songwriter well known as a living legend. The concert is part of Elton John's European tour, and becomes the only concert this summer in Denmark.

Elton John enjoys the big stage in Jelling Friday the 28th May - and it's time to sing along with hits including Crocodile Rock, Your Song, Can You Feel the Love Tonight and Nikita.

Jelling Music Festival runs this year on dates 28-30. May 2010 and the final program will be published 4 March 2010.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lubbock Confirmed


It's official; organizers announce the return of Elton John to Lubbock. KCBD NewsChannel 11 first broke the news last week that Elton John will be in Lubbock in April.

Although no stranger to Texas, this will be the first time in ten years that Elton has played a concert in Lubbock. The concert will take place on Friday, April 9, 2010, 8:00 p.m. at the United Spirit Arena. Elton and his band will perform their ‘Rocket Man –the Greatest Hits Live' concert, featuring number one chart hits and classic album tracks from throughout Elton's incredible five-decade career.

Elton's band comprises Davey Johnstone on guitar, Bob Birch on bass, John Mahon on percussion, Nigel Olsson on drums and Kim Bullard on keyboards. One of the most successful live acts on the road today, Elton and his band put on the kind of show you never forget: the entire audience standing, dancing and singing along with much-loved classic songs such as "Your Song", "Daniel", "Rocket Man", "Bennie and the Jets" and many, many more.

Kent Meredith, Director of United Spirit Arena said, "Elton John was the first act in the United Spirit Arena and it's exciting he is returning during our tenth anniversary. It is difficult to find someone that generates as much excitement as he does. His music transcends generations. He is one of those rare performers that appeals to so many different age groups."

Tickets go on sale Saturday, February 27th at 10:00 a.m.

Tickets are $89.50, $59.50, $39.50 available through all Select-A-Seat locations, charge by phone at 806-770-2000 or 800-735-1288 and online at www.selectaseatlubbock.com. A service charge is added to each ticket. There is a 6 ticket limit per customer.

- KCBD.COM

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Elton Talks About Love Lies Bleeding Ballet


Reporting from Calgary, Canada - Twenty toned and lithe dancers shook their hips in exaggerated movements, pounding Dodger blue baseball bats into the ballet studio floor in time to the staccato beats of Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets." "You're giving me hips, but you're giving me ballet hips. I want jazz hips," said the energetic choreographer, orchestrating his troupe. "Make a caricature out of it. . . . How much chin can you give me? It's gotta be tight -- think Rockettes, almost. Tight, tight, tight!

"Listen! He's grinding his voice into the asphalt there. Boom!"

The emphasis on sharp movements of the hips, elbows and chin is all part of Jean Grand-Maître's plan to use dance to tell the story of pop star Elton John's life in "Love Lies Bleeding," a contemporary ballet about the singer, set to premiere in Canada in May.

Grand-Maître, the Quebec-born artistic director of Alberta Ballet -- who also just choreographed the opening ceremonies for the Vancouver Olympic Games -- has been working for a year as the mastermind of the John ballet, having put together the soundtrack, written the libretto and amassed the design team in addition to doing the choreography.

"It's a visual abstract of my life," John said, phoning during a break from recording in an L.A. studio, in his first interview about the ballet. "It's about the dark side of my life as well as the bright side of my life."

It all begin when Grand-Maître picked up his phone and was shocked to hear who was on the line. "It was a call from one of the biggest pop stars in history -- at first I thought it was a joke," he said.

John approached Alberta Ballet because of the singer's ties to Joni Mitchell, the Alberta-born singer whose music and paintings formed the basis for Grand-Maître's critically acclaimed "Joni Mitchell's The Fiddle and the Drum" (which the company will perform this week in Irvine and at UCLA). Mitchell's enthusiastic reviews of the company's treatment of her own music caused John to request the video and to meet with Grand-Maître and six dancers when John performed in Calgary in September 2008.

After that meeting, Grand-Maître didn't think any further connection was possible because the company's performing schedule was full. But in what Grand-Maître calls a case of "extraordinary serendipity," the company's touring schedule was changed to accommodate "The Fiddle and the Drum's" performances at Vancouver's Cultural Olympiad (and consequently, this month's L.A. dates). This opened a slot for Grand-Maître to create a new ballet for May, when the company usually tours.

"I was very flattered at what [Grand-Maître] proposed," the singer said, recalling when the two met in Las Vegas last February. "I'd given him free rein to do whatever he wanted. . . . He's a remarkable choreographer."

In several conversations about the ballet, Grand-Maître emphasized the narrative story line more than the dancing, saying: "The ballet is the story of a young child from a neighborhood outside of London who was never meant to be a superstar."

The "Bennie and the Jets" number, for instance -- which features dancers in sequined baseball uniforms and a spinning record that serves as a revolving stage for the lead dancer -- opens the ballet as an ode to John's 1975 mega-concert at Dodger Stadium, which Grand-Maître called "the coming-of-age of a mega-superstar."

Other numbers -- including several with demon characters inspired by "A Clockwork Orange" and set to songs including "Have Mercy on the Criminal" and "The King Must Die" -- look at John's struggles with drug addiction and coming out, while the second act opens with "Sixty Years On," a gay pas de deux danced under the Sword of Damocles as a symbol for AIDS.

"It's very homoerotic," John said. "It's very on the money about my life."

John said he has no qualms about sharing his darkest moments -- including his struggles with coming out and the depths of his past drug addiction. "The truth is the best way," he said.

Set to 15 songs by John and his writing partner Bernie Taupin, the Alberta Ballet production premieres in Calgary on May 6, with John planning to attend. A worldwide tour is expected to follow.

Grand-Maître describes the $1-million ballet as melding Bob Fosse-inspired jazz choreography and classical ballet en pointe with urban hip-hop, rollerblading, drag queens and Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics. Broken mirrors, white powder, homoerotic angels and a spinning piano are among the imagery used in the production.

"The words we use with the designers are 'burlesque,' 'Fellini,' 'social commentary,' 'surrealism,' " said Grand-Maître, referring to the influences he's calling upon to capture the mood of John's sometimes outlandish persona and costumes. "It's the aesthetics of Elton John -- this burlesque, Fellini freak show -- and that's because he was so shy; he was a superstar making fun of himself."

Grand-Maître said he developed his story line after conversations with John, in which the singer revealed "very personal, private things" about his life, such as lamenting his early inaction against the AIDS crisis (since 1992, the Elton John Aids Foundation has raised more than $175 million). He describes the three main narratives as a "story of triumph" in which John "succumbs to addiction but resurrects himself through acts like charity and love" with his partner David Furnish (a Canadian), a look at the excesses and perils of pop stardom, and "the repression of homosexuality."

The ballet's choreography was marked in July and August, Grand-Maître always asking his dancers for "a little more," uttering such directions as "more juice in the torso" and "put some Viagra on these elbows."

Continually tweaking the choreography as he watched his dancers in action, Grand-Maître frequently sought their suggestions.

Yukichi Hattori, 29, one of two company dancers scheduled to take on the Elton role, said, "It's like we build our languages together."

For Kelley McKinlay, 26, the production's other lead dancer, one big challenge of the choreography was learning to work with rigging, when his character "flies" on a wire during "Someone Saved My Life Tonight."

"To have that in a ballet, per se, is pretty cool. And then there's the roller skates [with fire coming out during "Rocket Man"] . . . and the spinning record. I can't imagine any other dancer in the world saying, 'Oh yeah, I did that in a ballet.' "

Although calling the ballet "a collaboration between artists," Grand-Maître notes that John has been much less involved than Mitchell was with "The Fiddle and the Drum." John's role is technically as a "consultant," with Grand-Maître communicating with John mostly via e-mails sent through John's creative manager, his "private valet," or through Furnish. John has thus far seen none of the choreography and even asked this reporter to describe rehearsals she'd seen. The last scheduled meeting between John and Grand-Maître has been canceled twice, once because of a change in John's touring plans and again when John had the flu.

John was, however, consulted in the song selection, and initially approved the ballet's soundtrack, Grand-Maître said, but later asked for two song changes -- including replacing the little known "Love Song" with "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" for the number in which John first begins to battle his demons. That piece, a soft-shoe tap sequence complete with men in heels and women with whips, was already fully rehearsed -- sending Grand-Maître scrambling to adapt his choreography into a new song.

John also selected "The Bridge" for the ballet's AIDS metaphor, Grand-Maître said. And later, well after the company had begun promoting the ballet simply as "Elton," John requested the name be changed to "Love Lies Bleeding," which he told The Times is "one of my favorite songs from 'Yellow Brick Road,' and I thought it just summed up the title of my life much better."

The choice seems apropos given that John paired the song on the 1973 album with "Funeral for a Friend," an instrumental John said then was the kind of music he'd like played at his own funeral; the ballet begins in an abandoned theater, with the lead dancer -- initially known as "The Spectator" -- reliving the superstar's life in a fan's fantasy 100 years after John's death.

Dancer Hattori said of his interpretation of the Spectator/Elton John character: "Deep down, this person just wants to express himself, but he is very introverted, he has to put a mask on to reach out to people. He has a strong desire to be out there and be heard.

"[Maybe that's why John] went overboard with decorating himself and playing something he's not. It builds up frustration -- kind of a schizophrenic dilemma -- when you're not really yourself."

- Los Angeles Times

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Face to Face Tour Will Not Continue Past March


The much rumored return of Elton John and Billy Joel to Chicago's Wrigley field in 2010 does not seem likely to happen.

That's the word directly from Sir Elton himself in a WGN-TV interview today. Talking to entertainment reporter, Dean Richards, John said, "I'd love to be able to do it, but unfortunately, Billy has decided to take a year off."

The Grammy winning singer-songwriter added, "as far as I know, there will be no more Billy and Elton shows after the Albany show in New York on March 11th and that breaks my heart since I was so looking forward to coming back there. I'm heartbroken and very cut-up. It's not my decision, it's Billy decision but unfortunately, that's not going to be happening."

When asked if he'll team up with someone else for a tour, he said, "I don't know if this will ever happen again."

- WGNTV.COM

"Billy just wants to take a year off, and I'm so disappointed because when we came to Wrigley Field last year -- I'm a huge baseball fan, I saw my first baseball game at Wrigley Field and it was like playing in the church of baseball -- I was so delighted to be there, and we had such a wonderful two days," John told NBC Chicago. "I'm absolutely gutted because I'm so looking forward to coming back to play there."

The announcement came during a satellite interview for NBC Chicago's "The Talk" program. John was invited on to discuss his involvement in the Broadway musical "Billy Elliot," which is coming to Chicago next month. John composed the music in the production.

John said he will be in Chicago "with bells on" when Billy Elliot hits the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre beginning March 18.
Last year, John and Joel paired up for two shows at the Friendly Confines as part of their Face 2 Face tour. They played twin pianos and traded vocals, with each artist performing a set with his own band.

- NBC CHICAGO

 

"Jesus Christ is Gay": Elton John - Reaction

 

Elton John responds to the quote in today's much publicized interview in Parade Magazine in which he's attributed as saying that Jesus Christ "was a super-intelligent, compassionate gay man."

Speaking to WGN-TV entertainment reporter, Dean Richards, John says his statement was taken out of context.

He said, "let me clarify. I'm not saying to everyone that he definitely was gay; that's just how I see him from MY point of view as a compassionate gay person. I see him as a compassionate person who forgave people. That's how "I" see him. Everyone's individual faith is their own business.

- wgntv.com

Pop legend Elton John is making waves again, saying in an interview that Jesus Christ was a gay man.

The comments in a wide-ranging interview posted on the website of the U.S. magazine Parade have caused consternation among conservative Christians. The 62-year-old musician is quoted as saying, "I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems."

He went on to say that on the cross, Jesus forgave the people who crucified him and wanted us to be loving and forgiving.
The Catholic League condemned the comments, saying that to call Jesus a homosexual is to "label him a sexual deviant."
Chicago television station WGN interviewed John over the furor, and the musician tried to clarify his remarks.

"I'm not saying to everyone that he definitely was gay; that's just how I see him from my point of view as a compassionate gay person," John is quoted on WGN's website. "I see him as a compassionate person who forgave people. That's how I see him. Everyone's individual faith is their own business."

- CP

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Elton's Parade Interview


In this week’s issue of PARADE, Elton John talks to Dotson Rader about the transition from his raucous rock-star years to becoming a committed philanthropist. In the web exclusive below, the music legend opens up about the life-threatening downside of fame, his partner David Furnish and his take on Jesus.

Making early mistakes in love.

“I’d always choose someone younger. I wanted to smother them with love. I’d take them around the world, try to educate them. One after another they got a Cartier watch, a Versace outfit, maybe a sports car. They didn’t have jobs. They were reliant on me. I did this repeatedly. In six months they were bored and hated my guts because I’d taken their lives and self-worth away. I hadn’t intended to.”

Love and drugs.

“Just about every relationship I ever had was involved with drugs. It never works. But I always had to be with someone, good or bad, otherwise I didn’t feel fulfilled. I’d lost the plot.”

It’s all or nothing when it comes to drugs.

“For some people a gram of cocaine can last a month. Not me. I have to do the lot, and then I want more. At the end of the day, all it led to was heartache.”

Why fame has lost its appeal.

“Princess Diana, Gianni Versace, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, all dead. Two of them shot outside their houses. None of this would have happened if they hadn’t been famous. Fame attracts lunatics. I never had a bodyguard, ever, until Gianni died. I don’t like celebrity anymore.”

Remembering friends lost.

“Every time I sing ‘The Ballad of the Boy in the Red Shoes’ onstage, I say that this is a song written about a time when people in America started getting AIDS and your president, Ronald Reagan, did nothing about it. I get boos. There’s a lot of hate in the world.”

His take on Christianity.

“I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems. On the cross, he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus wanted us to be loving and forgiving. I don’t know what makes people so cruel. Try being a gay woman in the Middle East — you’re as good as dead.”

He’ll never stop helping.

“I set up my foundation because I wanted to make amends for the years I was a drug addict. People with HIV are still stigmatized. The infection rates are going up. People are dying. The political response is appalling. The sadness of it, the waste.”

Finding new relationships.

“In 1993 I went back to my house in Windsor for a while. I wanted meet new people so I rang up a friend in London and said, ‘Could you please rattle some new people together for dinner here Saturday?’”

An instant connection.

“I was attracted to David immediately. He was very well dressed, very shy. The next night we had dinner. After it, we consummated our relationship. We fell in love very quickly.”

Keeping the love alive.

“Every Saturday for 16 years, we’ve sent each other a card, no matter where we are in the world, to say how much we love each other.”

Communication is key.

“We’ve never been jealous. We talk about the sexual side of things, things that normally would have frightened me before.”

For the full interview, check out Parade.com.

- parade.com

Elton Performs with Jeff Bridges & Crazy Heart Cast


Movie stars JEFF BRIDGES and ROBERT DUVALL became the toast of Hollywood for their musical skills on Monday night (15Feb10) when they packed a tiny Los Angeles club to perform songs from their CRAZY HEART film.

Bridges, who is Oscar-nominated for his portrayal of grizzled country singer Bad Blake in the film, performed tracks from the movie with songwriters T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham - and was even joined onstage at the 200-capacity Vibrato Grill by Elton John and Harry Dean Stanton.

Duvall took to the stage to sing the gospel song Live Forever, which he performs on the soundtrack, with actor pal Stanton on harmonica.

Elton stunned the crowd when he joined Bridges on piano for the closing track, I Don't Know.

And the stars weren't only onstage - the audience consisted of Crazy Heart co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal and her brother Jake, Jon Hamm, Woody Harrelson, Peter Fonda and film composer Hans Zimmer.

- contact music

SEE THE VIDEO BELOW

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2 More Texas Concerts in the Works


Elton John to play UT's Erwin center

Elton John and his band will appear at the Frank Erwin Center on April 10, it was confirmed Tuesday. Tickets, priced at $125, $85 and $45, will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday at Texas Box Offices, which include most area H-E-Bs and the Erwin Center box office.

When Sir Elton last played the Erwin Center in August 1998, he set the box-office record at the 18,000 seat venue. Luciano Pavarotti later topped the mark, which still stands, with a $1.2 million gross.

— Michael Corcoran

Pop and rock ’n’ roll fans were excited Tuesday by a rumor on the Internet that hinted at an Elton John concert booked at the United Spirit Arena in Lubbock.

Kent Meredith, director of the United Spirit Arena, said Tuesday no repeat appearance by Elton John at the USA has been “confirmed or contracted yet.”

Meredith did not deny United Spirit Arena officials are attempting to book John.

He said, “Until we have a contract in hand and the promoter calls us and says, ‘These are the ticket prices and this is the date we want to put them on sale,’ anything can happen. It is a hard and fast rule that we respect the wishes of the artist’s management.”

Meredith said Lubbock is viewed as a city which traditionally supports most concerts booked here.

“But when a promoter is sitting in Houston and he is looking at all the cities where he can take a show, Lubbock is not going to be at the top of the list, simply because of our location and possible routing challenges,” he said. “So we don’t want to do anything that could result in us losing a concert.”

The implication is promoters have the option to take shows elsewhere if their rules are not followed implicitly.

John headlined the first concert at the United Spirit Arena, attracting more than 14,000 fans to a solo performance that saw seats sold in all sections, including those behind the stage.

According to the entertainer’s Web site, John plans to “return to Texas” in April with his full band. The only concert confirmed on the site Tuesday was John’s appearance in Corpus Christi on April 6.

- Lubbockonline.com

UPDATE: The Lubbock concert is rumoured for April 9.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

An In-depth Interview with Nigel Olsson



Daily Herald: I just want to say what a pleasure this is for me -- the very first concert I ever went to was Elton John at Dodger Stadium ...

Nigel Olsson: Oh my word!

DH: ... and my biggest -- and probably only -- disappointment was that you and Dee weren't in the band then.

Olsson: That's right. That was the Roger Pope, Caleb Quaye days. Yep.

DH: And having grown up following all your albums and everything, that was something I'd always wanted to see, but then I was pleasantly surprised on the "Jump Up" tour, I hadn't actually heard that you guys were back in the band, but there was the original band again. It was great.

Olsson: Perfect.

DH: First of all, I know there have been several dates postponed, so I just wanted to get the latest on Elton's health and see if things are still looking good for you to start up again next week.

Olsson: Yes. Well, Elton is doing really well. He had a really bad bout with the flu, it wasn't the swine flu or the bird flu or whatever flu that's going around now. As it is now, we're all set to leave here on, I think, Monday. So we're packing our bags so to speak.

DH: Zero hour?

Olsson: Zero hour. (laughs)

[Editor's Note: During the week following this interview the remainder of the Face 2 Face tour dates for 2009 were postponed -- this time, due to an undisclosed medical issue with Billy Joel. The rescheduled run of tour dates kick off Saturday in Oakland and include the Feb. 19 show at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.]

DH: Of course, the band faced an even bigger challenge recently with the death of Guy Babylon -- can you just talk briefly about him and what he brought to the band for such a long time?

Olsson: Well, obviously, we're still all devastated about it. Out of all of us, I feel that Guy was the healthiest amongst us all. He went swimming every single day. Actually when he was young, he could have been an Olympic swimmer. And he was the quiet one, always renewing the musical samples for stage and for recording. He always, as soon as we got to a gig, he would be up there on stage with his headphones on, re-programming stuff. When he'd get back to his room, he'd work on the music. For our new guy, pun not intended, who is Kim Bullard, he left files and files and files of stuff that Kim could just go into and figure out exactly what he was going to be doing. But Guy was a dear, dear friend, and as I say, he was very, very quiet, but he was ... once he was in the studio or onstage, he was so inspirational to play with because, you know, I wear headphones onstage, I have my own mixer and everything, so I got him in full stereo and I used to have him a little bit louder than the other guys, because other than the low end of Elton's piano, the strings that Guy had programmed into his keyboard were kind of exactly the same as what you hear, especially on the earlier records that Gus Dudgeon did with us, you know, you could really hear the guts of the strings. So that was very inspirational to me and obviously he will be missed. There's not a day goes by that I don't think about him or Dee Murray, in fact, but it was very, very, and still is, just devastating when we heard the news. But he would want us to go on, which we are, and we'll get the job done as usual.

DH: How is Kim Bullard fitting in to the live lineup?

Olsson: Kim is fitting in very well. He obviously has a lot of homework to do. But before we went to Europe a couple of months back to do the Red Piano tour, we had three days of rehearsal here in L.A. And we only had to run the songs, like, a couple times and he had it down, totally. He's very, very professional. He's been around a long time. He's worked with many, many big acts.

DH: Did he work with Poco?

Olsson: Poco, Kelly Clarkson, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and various other people. So he knows what he's doing basically. (laughs)

DH: Now, I caught one of the earlier Face 2 Face tours several years ago, and I just really love the format of it, you know, with Elton and Billy opening with some tunes and trading off vocal lines and everything, and then the two full bands come out for the different sets -- it just makes for a great night of music. But, for you guys, does it present any unique challenges when you do a show like this or is it just as fun as it looks?

Olsson: It's total fun from start to finish. The only drag for me, I can't speak for the other guys, but I'm sure they'd agree, is we go on and do our set and then go off while Billy does his set, and then we all go on at the end. So that hour and a half or whatever in between when we're waiting to go back on at the end for the big jam session, for me it's a nightmare because you've got the adrenaline pumping and then you have to go off and wait an hour and a half and try to keep that energy up. So that's quite annoying for me (laughs), cause I just want to get up there and keep on that huge high level of giving it some hell, you know?

DH: So what do you do during that hour and a half?

Olsson: Well we just sit around in the dressing room and eat popcorn or whatever they have, or M&Ms -- only red ones. No! (laughs)

DH: The brown ones are OK?

Olsson: That's right. (laughs) So we do have a lot of fun and we're looking forward to getting out there again and hopefully making people smile.

DH: With the amount of coordination that must be necessary between the two bands to pull off a show like this, I imagine, are you pretty locked into a similar setlist on most nights?

Olsson: This particular show, we do the same songs every night. Because a show of this immensity, for the lighting and rigging people, and the sound people, it has to be kind of on. If we change something it's really a domino effect once it goes down the line.

DH: You don't even change things in your own particular set?

Olsson: No.

DH: You know, as a longtime fan of the band, one of my favorite moments of any Elton show is when he pulls out a deep album cut. Of course, we all love the hits and everything, but I especially look forward to the surprises -- I know you can't really do it on this tour, but I'm thinking back to the "Jump Up" tour, you did "Ticking" and "All the Young Girls Love Alice," you know, songs like "Grey Seal" and "Roy Rogers." My question for you is, if you had the choice, is there any one or two songs from the back catalog that you personally would love to see dusted off?

Olsson: Wow, that's a good question. "High Flying Bird." "We All Fall in Love Sometimes," "Curtains."

DH: You have great drum parts in that [latter] song.

Olsson: Oh, I think every drum fill that I ever played is in that whole song. And the beauty, actually, of that song is when we recorded it, we did it in, I think, two takes, but we couldn't edit it, you know, between the two songs that flow into each other and we did not want to edit it, so we had to play it the whole way through and get it right.

DH: I bet that was quite a workout.

Olsson: It was a workout -- and it worked out. So that's one of my favorite songs. And, you know, all the songs with big huge backgrounds, that is my forte. I love backgrounds. "Ticking" has been mentioned a couple of times, actually.

DH: That's a great tune.

Olsson: Yeah. But that would be probably when we go out again just the Elton John tour, not the Red Piano or the Billy Joel thing. Then we have the beauty of being able to slip a couple of off-the-wall favorites that people ask us through my Web site and through Elton's. I always get asked, "Could you please play "Harmony"? Please play "Harmony"! And a few years back actually, "Harmony" was one of the most requested songs that people would call into radio stations to play.

DH: That's amazing because it was never actually released as a single was it?

Olsson: No, no it wasn't. And it's huge with the fans. And in the years of, well, way, way, way back, when there was real FM radio where they played off-the-wall stuff, they didn't have to go to a playlist or whatever, they could play those kind of tracks that, you know, were buried in albums that needed to come out. So, it's not like that these days.

DH: Boy, you read my mind because one of my questions I was going to ask later, I wanted to get your thoughts on the current state of radio. Because it seems to me bands that have been around a long time, even artists like you guys and Elton who have had such great success on the charts over the years, they can release a new album and maybe the single gets played for a week or two, but they don't stick with it.

Olsson: No, they bury it.

DH: Yeah. I guess I can semi-understand how that happens, but I can't get a grasp of why they would do that. Where do you see radio going? Do you see a time again when bands like you guys can release a new song and keep it on radio?

Olsson: Well, that's a great question that I don't think I can answer because since the Internet, God bless it, I finally broke down a couple years ago and bought a computer. Now, it's like what did we do without this? (laughs)

DH: Exactly.

Olsson: I'd love to turn the radio on and hear stuff like we just talked about, but anytime soon I cannot see that happening. And there's very few artists now that are putting out albums, you know, of the old school, because they're not getting played on the radio and people are downloading off the Internet. It's a sorry state of affairs for songwriters. So I don't know what's happening. We just have to go on and stay on tour and give them what they want.

DH: I guess that one positive that's come out of it, especially for fans, though, is YouTube. I've had great fun going back and finding clips of you guys from the early days. Those are shows I was too young to go to.

Olsson: Well, my son, actually, and my grandson in England, now and again will say, "Check this out on YouTube." This one my grandson sent me, he said, "This is so cool!" It was me when I was doing my solo stuff, on "American Bandstand" with Dick Clark. You know, I used to have this long, long, long hair and the camera went behind me and shot from the back, and my hair -- I looked like I should be doing a Clairol advert, you know?

DH: Well, you did have great hair!

Olsson: Yes, and I still brush it every day!

DH: Well, I read recently that you just played your 1,500th gig with Elton ...

Olsson: Yes.

DH: Who keeps track of those?

Olsson: Well, you know, [the editor] over at Eltonjohn.com, she runs that whole thing and she keeps track with everything. And they have people that research and go back and back and back. In fact, in London we have a huge warehouse run by a guy called Adrian Collee who has all the archives -- everything that we've ever recorded, everything, instruments and wardrobe pieces, he has it all stashed in that warehouse. And he gets on his forklift truck if we need to research something and has to go to the top of the rack to get a box down or whatever ...

DH: Like the "Indiana Jones" scene at the end?

Olsson: Yes, yes, exactly. So we have a lot of people doing research and all sorts of weird and wonderful things. We have a great crew that's been with us, almost forever. Clive Franks, our sound man, has been there probably the longest of anybody.

DH: Yes, I remember seeing his name way back on the early albums.

Olsson: Yeah and he's still with us. Still with us. When we do the Red Piano tour, we just got back, as I said, from Europe, we had maybe 150 people, just the crew and rigging people, 27 trucks and 10 buses, and I think, I'm sure one of the guys snapped a picture of all the trucks and buses together in the parking lot -- it's insane. And I would dread to think how much it costs just to put our show on. And then the Billy Joel, Elton thing, my ... so we've got a lot of people who have been with us a long time, so that's how it comes off so smooth. We're having a lot of fun. Because everybody trusts each other, and they know the show, they know each other's jobs, so if somebody gets sick or whatever, there's always someone to cover, you know, the hanging stuff from the roof or if we have an effect that happens, there's always somebody to cover and that's the beauty of having people there for such a long time. It's like a big family gathering to go out on tour. It's like going camping.

DH: How many buses did you say you had?

Olsson: We had 10 buses, 27 trucks.

DH: That's probably nine buses and 26 more trucks than what you had when you showed up at the Troubadour [in Los Angeles for Elton's first U.S. concert on Aug. 25, 1970].

Olsson: This is true. I think we had an Econoline van. (laughs)

DH: I was going to ask because those [Troubadour] shows were where the press really got wind that something new was coming ...

Olsson: Yes.

DH: What do you remember most about those shows -- performing them?

Olsson: The early, early ones?

DH: The Troubadour ones.

Olsson: The Troubadour ones ... there was Elton, Dee Murray and myself. And at that time, what we call the black album, which is the one with "Your Song" ...

DH: Yeah, the first one -- for the U.S. anyway.

Olsson: Yeah, the first one. It was full of orchestration and big background vocal parts. When we came over here, we thought, "How on earth are we going to pull this off?" -- because of all the strings and this, that and the other. And we pulled it off -- just the three of us. It was just so amazing. And we didn't really have time, because things were happening so fast for us, we didn't have time to look back and think, "Well, wow, this is really cool." And then it became the stage where we'd record, then we'd tour. Then we'd go back in the studio, and tour. So we were always kind of touring the album before and putting a couple of things from the new record out -- which was really exciting for the fans, but for three or four years there, when we first came over here, it was just insane. We didn't realize how big we were, you know? So, there's been a lot of times where I've thought back and said, "How on earth did we pull that off?"

DH: Well, as a fan, that's the same thought I have because unless you lived through that time period between 1970 and 1975, I'm not sure it's possible for someone today to realize what a phenomenon that was then. It has to be the most productive five-year stretch of any artist I can ever imagine.

Olsson: I totally agree with you. And you know we weren't one of them bands that went to the hotels and hurled televisions off the 16th floor and stuff. Back when we started, there wasn't 16 floors in a hotel. And after the show, you'd go back to the Holiday Inn or wherever we were staying and there was no fast food stuff open 24 hours, nothing. If you didn't eat at the show, you were out of luck. And now, there's these chains of McDonald's and Burger King, whatever, so you never go without something after the show. Although I do not enjoy having pizza on the bus every night because it's always cold. (laughs) So pizza isn't on our menu when I come home.

DH: I guess the tightest you get with your tour riders is the red M&Ms?

Olsson: That's the truth! No, we don't have any of that. No cold cuts. They treat us very well, we have great assistants backstage who take care of wardrobe, dressing rooms and what we eat ... we're spoiled to death - which is a good thing.

DH: Well, you deserve it.

Olsson: Life as it should be! (laughs)

DH: Well, during that five-year stretch, you kind of touched on it already, but did you ever have a time to realize what was going on then? Did you have any time to really enjoy it?

Olsson: We enjoyed everything we did, but everything was happening so quickly. You know, we went to Japan and Australia, and it was all so new to us. The surprising thing, looking back now, is that we were huge here in the states. I mean huge. But in England ... nothing. Nothing. In fact, I think his first hit record in England was "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Kiki Dee.

DH: Really?

Olsson: Yeah. I think "Daniel" made it on the charts somewhere, but we were just nothing in England. We owe all our fame or whatever to being here in the U.S.A.

DH: Well, it was certainly a great time period.

Olsson: Yes it was.

DH: Now one thing that has always intrigued me, and I'm not sure it's ever gotten its proper due, are the amazing background vocals that you, Davey and Dee did on those albums. I've heard stories about how Elton would record his tracks and leave the studio at the end of the day and you three would literally stay there during the night and lay all the backgrounds down before he returned the next day. Is that really how it happened?

Olsson: That's exactly how it happened.

DH: How did you guys typically come up with those? Did anyone take the lead or did you get ideas from all over?

Olsson: We all put our own ideas in. If Elton came up with an idea, sometimes you'll hear a harmony with just him and myself because my vocal range was basically in the same range as his. So what he would do, he'd say, "How about you put this little harmony in where I sing such and such?" And we'd do that, and then we'd just come up with ideas as we went along. It was such fun to do that -- and there were some things we just sort of broke down laughing and had to stop the session because we couldn't stop laughing. And we sped up things and we slowed 'em down and had a good laugh. Gus Dudgeon before he died, he did a specialty thing, like Classic Albums or something, and he had mentioned on that that Dee and Davey and myself were the best background vocalists that he'd ever worked with. And we all had separate microphones, which is kind of unheard of in the recording industry, you know, you get one mike and that's your lot. And we were allowed to do whatever -- if anybody had an idea, we'd try it. It wouldn't be, "Oh, no, that's crap, we're not going to do that." And just sitting there the next day when Elton came back in and had a playback at 15 million decibels -- cause Elton really liked to hear it loud -- just seeing his face when he heard what we'd done the night before, it was great. It was great. And mostly we didn't have to change anything.

DH: It sounds like a great creative environment.

Olsson: It was unbelievable. And it still is. I don't know when we're going into the studio again, but I look forward to going back to make a record the way we used to make it. With no click tracks or multi-electronic stuff. Just the band with our instruments all set up in the same room and go for it. When the electronics and computers came into it and ProTools and all that stuff, that for me was the end of the heart of songs. Because if you have to play through a click track, there's no light and shade, it's just that dump, dump, dump and that's not me. That's not the way I play. I play from the heart and if it needs to speed up a little bit, fine. And if it needs to slow down, fine. Actually, my signature is that I kind of play a little bit behind the beat just to hold everything back, which to me makes it more dynamic, especially on the slow ballads. That's my thing - the big ballads. And leaving out, you know, sometimes on the big, big ballads, you expect me to put a fill in. "Oh, here comes one of Nigel's fills. ... Oh, no, he left one out." I never like to overplay because I want the lyrics to come out and let people hear what the song is all about instead of putting these huge fills in. I do them at random, basically.

DH: You keep stealing my future questions!

Olsson: (Laughs) I've done this before.

DH: Because I was going to ask you, there's a lot of rock drummers that are extremely flashy, but you're definitely more understated in your approach. Is that naturally your style or is that something you adapted because you're playing with Elton and he's the main focus?

Olsson: I never wanted to be a flashy drummer. In fact, I never took any lessons, I'm self taught. I used to put the headphones on and listen to records and just play along with records, but I can't do a drum roll. I couldn't tell you what a paradiddle is. In fact, my father-in-law, Larry Butler, who produced the big Kenny Rogers records -- I was living in Nashville for a while, where I met my wife. I used to do sessions for Larry, and he would hand the chord sheets out to the guys and the music stuff and he'd come up to me and almost hand me the sheet, then crumple it up. He says, "Well, you won't be needing this." (laughs) He knew I couldn't read. He could put it upside down, I wouldn't know. Less is more for me.

DH: So you don't mind flying under the radar?

Olsson: No, no, no, no, no. No.

DH: I remember reading a trivia question once and it said there was one song you wish you could go back and re-record the drum part to, and that was "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)."

Olsson: Oh dear ...

DH: You didn't like that?

Olsson: I don't really like "Saturday Night" or "Crocodile Rock." Oh ... it's just like bashing away. I mean, it was fun recording it. In fact, when we recorded "Saturday Night," we couldn't get the right groove for the song. So Gus said -- this is when Davey had joined the band, I think it was "Honky Chateau" -- "How about let's do it with just Davey, Dee and Nigel, and Elton, you just sing live and we'll put the piano on later?" And that's how we did it. And [Elton] was just roaring around the studio with his microphone, saying, "Come on, you bastards, you can get it!" So, you know, there's strange things like that ... Elton wasn't, like, pissed off when Gus said, "OK, let's try it without the piano." He wasn't like, "What do you mean?" We'd always experiment with different things. But I don't know where you got that trivia from, but I would love to go back and do the drum track.

DH: So when you play it live now, have you changed it more to how you wished you would have recorded it?

Olsson: Yes, I think so. Basically. And I don't think, when I'm playing it live, "Oh, I hate this song," cause it's not the thing to do, cause I know the crowd loves the song and it'll be a fixture for life, you know?

DH: No doubt.

Olsson: If you don't play it, they'll throw M&Ms at us. (laughs)

DH: I understand that you were in Uriah Heep ...

Olsson: I was -- for nine days!

DH: What was it that you saw in Elton or his music that led to -- what we can call now -- a great career move?

Olsson: Um, well actually he got me the job with Uriah Heep. He called me up ... Dee and I had worked the last two tours with the Spencer Davis Group, and I was out of work. And Elton had called me and said, "This band is looking for a drummer, would you be interested?" So I went along for the audition and got the gig. We did nine dates and then Elton called me and said, "I've got this record that's coming out and I need to do, like, a promotional concert or show, and would you and Dee be up for it?" It was just a one-off deal because he basically just wanted to be a songwriter, him and Bernie. And I said, "Yeah, that would be great." So we went to the Dick James Studio, this tiny little studio of our publishing company in London and within the first, I would say, eight bars of the first thing we played, which was probably "Your Song" at that time, that's when I knew, "Oh ... this is the stuff I want to be doing." Because with Uriah Heep, they were a great, great headbanger band, or whatever you could call it, but that just wasn't my forte. I wanted to do something that I could play with the lyrics and play to the low end of the piano. It was so inspiring in those first few bars that I said, "This is great. This is great." And we did the show -- and that was the deciding moment. We said, "We can't just do this one show, we've got to carry on. And here we are, still carrying on. (laughs)

DH: That's a great story. Now, my friends and I have debated over the years our top five favorite Elton John albums. I'm curious, can you rank a top five for yourself?

Olsson: "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Captain Fantastic," "Madman Across the Water" was a great, great album. And obviously the first album, Dee and I didn't play on the first one, it was all written out. That was great because that kind of launched us, put us on the map. And, an off-the-wall one, which my wife played it to me late one night, when I'd just come back off tour and jet-lagged out of my brain, and she said, "You've got to listen to this." And it was the "11-17-70" live album from WABC in New York. And it was Dee and Elton and myself, and it was just amazing, amazing, and they'd remastered it or whatever. And that is an outstanding record for me.

DH: I'm going to have to break that one out again. I haven't listened to that for a while.

Olsson: You know, I don't listen a lot to our stuff, but when I do, I really appreciate the heartfelt energy of the songs and the way it was recorded. I've had a great life, I'm a very lucky man. I was in the right place at the right time.

DH: Yes, and took advantage and carried on.

Olsson: And, you know, people often ask me, "Well, how do I get in the music business?" And I just say, "How I got into the music business was I was in the right place at the right time and was very, very lucky." Nowadays, your chances are slim and none of getting on because there's so many people out there. So, again, I'm the luckiest man on earth.

DH: I was wondering if you could describe for me the feeling that you get at the beginning of a concert. For me and others out in the audience, it seems to me, that in that moment when the lights go out, but the band hasn't started to play yet, that that's kind of a magical moment. I know what that feeling is like for those of us in the audience, but what's it like for you up on stage, and for you personally?

Olsson: Well, for me personally, as far back as I can remember doing live performances, is still, I get so nervous, the whole day leading up to the show. And I don't know why. I haven't got a clue why. It's not that I'm worried about dropping my drumsticks or forgetting what song I'm playing -- I don't know what it is. You know, the lads take the piss out of me, "Oh, you're not nervous, you've been doing this for 40 years, what are you like, you idiot?"

DH: Maybe you're worried about getting your gloves on the wrong hand? (laughs)

Olsson: Well, I have Jin Joo [Maddy], she's our assistant wardrobe lady, and she actually carries my sticks and my gloves to the stage. And I always put the left one on first -- I don't know why. So she makes sure I put them on the right hand. So, I have people. (laughs) But once I get up there, to see the reaction of the audience is just unbelievable. Especially that we're now these old geezers rocking out, our audience, it's insane to look out in the audience, after all these years and see the older people, the real older people, the younger people and little kids. Obviously, the little kids are there maybe because of their parents being fans or they wanted us to play stuff from "The Lion King" or whatever. We have such a huge catalog of stuff that I guess we appeal to all of these different age groups, which is amazing. And we're still going strong. We're selling out big arenas still. We did a show a couple years back in Rome, in front of the Colosseum, and there was like over 100,000 people there in that square. Our sound guys had to have what they call delay towers, so I think it's like every 50 yards they have to put up another tower of speakers, so that the delay wouldn't be too much for the guys that are standing right at the back -- because then it will be out of sync with the big screen, the TV. With that many people, I mean, you're just looking at a sea of people. It's just absolutely amazing, and it still amazes me every single night that we pull all these people in and they're all jumping up and down and screaming. It's great!

DH: I think you guys might be blessed to have what I feel might very well be the greatest opening song that anyone could have -- "Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding."

Olsson: Yeah.

DH: I always love seeing that one right at the beginning.

Olsson: Well, we love playing it.

DH: Well, is there anything else you'd like to add that we haven't talked about?

Olsson: Well, just that it will be great to come out to your part of the world. I've played there a couple times. And I've also raced there.

DH: I was going to ask if you were still doing racing.

Olsson: Yes. Well, now I can't because the insurance won't cover me. But I have raced out there.

DH: The Miller Motorsports Park? The new one?

Olsson: Yeah, it's an amazing, amazing track. Actually I was with the Ferrari Challenge a few years ago, when I took some time off to go racing. And that was one of my favorite tracks, that and Road Atlanta. It was amazing. I still miss racing, but, you know, being the drummer, if you make one mistake on the racetrack, it could lead to ... not being the drummer. (laughs) But I do have my instructor's license and I can teach people how to do the right things on the track. I miss it, but ...

DH: Well, we'd rather have you drumming!

Olsson: OK, you got it. And hopefully we will see you there and have a great time and I hope we play the right stuff.

DH: I'm sure you will. I'm definitely looking forward to the show, it's always a pleasure and I love watching you play.

- Daily Herald

Elton Wants Billy Joel to Record a New Album


As crazy as it seems, this summer will mark 17 years since Billy Joel released his last studio album, 1993's River Of Dreams. According to Joel he's has sworn off rock songwriting to focus instead on classical works. Elton John believes that Billy still has more songs in his system: "He seems to say, 'Well, I can't do this anymore, I can't do this anymore.'But, you know, he's not a rock and roll artist -- he's a great songwriter, and great songwriters always write songs, and there'll be songs coming from Billy Joel's piano again. I'm always saying, 'Come on, come on, come on, come on,'but in good time, he'll do it again. In the meantime, he's gone off and done something else, and he goes and does lectures and stuff like that. He's enjoying himself. You know, he'll, he'll admit, 'I'm just coasting at the moment,'but I don't think that he's gonna be happy coasting."

- kbsradio.ca

Elton Supports Anti-Homophobia Video


Elton John, the chief of the Rugby Football Union and the gay Irish hurler Donal Ó Cusack have all given their support to the FA's anti-homophobia video.

The figures gave their support to the film in a statement today (Friday), but not a single footballer came forward to condemn homophobia.

Although the FA cancelled the premiere of the viral ad, it said it still planned to show it to match stewards as a training and education tool.

It shows a fan hurling homophobic abuse at people in the street and co-workers without being challenged.

The cancellation was revealed last week when the FA admitted it had more work to do on the film.

The film was criticised by some of those consulted over it, including Peter Tatchell and John Amaechi. Mr Tatchell said he was disappointed top players had refused to get involved.

Sir Elton said: “I fully support the initiative and hope people realise that homophobic abuse at matches should not be tolerated.”

Cusack, who came out last year, said: "The FA is showing excellent leadership in this. When I came out to a team which was at the top of its game the reaction could be summed up in two words: 'Yeah? So?'"

Meanwhile, Francis Barron, the chief executive of England’s Rugby Football Union, said he welcomed "any scheme that seeks to remove discrimination from sport and which enhances the experience of gay or lesbian participants playing or watching sport".

Professional Footballers' Association chief Gordon Taylor said homophobia was "unacceptable", adding that he applauded the "ongoing work in this arena".

Yesterday, Mr Taylor tried to defend top-level players for their failure to back the initiative.

He told the Independent: "Everybody assumes footballers are full of confidence, but it is not easy on issues like this.

"Remember there was a time when even black players did not feel they could talk about race."

Despite several heterosexual footballers suffering homophobic abuse, all of the big-name players and their agents who were approached refused to support the video.

- Pink News

Friday, February 12, 2010

Elton Coming to Corpus Christi


Chart-topping, hit-making music legend Sir Elton John will spend an evening in Corpus Christi on April 6.

The concert, dubbed “An Evening with Elton John,” will feature the international sensation and his band performing his No. 1 hits and classic album tracks at American Bank Center arena, organizers announced Thursday.

“We’ve been trying for several years to bring Elton here and now we can finally say he is coming,” said Marc Solis, American Bank Center general manager.

The composer, singer, pianist and performer debuted in 1970 with his self-titled album. With hits such as “Your Song,” “Daniel,” “Rocket Man” and “Bennie and the Jets,” he became known as “rock’s Liberace” for his over-the-top stage presence. His flashiness on stage has mellowed in the past decade.

In the past 40 years, the British rocker has sold more than 250 million records worldwide and has become one of the most successful artists of all-time, amassing more than 50 Top 40 hits and seven No. 1 albums in America.

John’s “Candle in the Wind ‘97,” which he wrote in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death, has sold 37 million copies, making it the biggest-selling single of all time, according to a news release.

Presently, John and fellow piano man Billy Joel are on tour; however, John’s Corpus Christi concert will not include Joel, organizers said.

To date, no other concert dates are scheduled for Texas, according to John’s official Web site, eltonjohn.com.

The Corpus Christi stop comes three days after John’s scheduled performance in Chichen Itza, Mexico, which has drawn controversy because of concern over potential damage to the Mayan archeological site.

Tickets to the local show go on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 20 through Ticketmaster and the arena’s box office and will be $35, $65 and $85. Tickets will be limited to six per customer. Information: 361-826-4100 or www.ticketmaster.com

- Caller.com

Lady Gaga Accepts amFAR Award on EJ's Behalf


“I hate the snow. We can’t do it if it snows.”

Taking inspiration from a would-be blizzard, Lady Gaga helped kick off Fashion Week at amfAR’s New York gala to honor Elton John and benefit AIDS research Wednesday night as a woman in white — white cap, white hair, white jacket, white bra, white panties, white boots, and white pearls, powder, and paint all over her ensemble and exposed skin. But once she took the stage, her new look became part of her performance.

Sitting still as a statue, Gaga shared the top of her custom-designed piano with a mannequin, so that at first, they looked like a pair. Then, with slow deliberate movements, she held a teacup as if to drink from it, dropped it, and spat it out — but what came out of her mouth were even more pearls. Only then was she ready to straddle the piano bench to sing a tailored rendition of “Future Love.”

“Those were real pearls,” her designer Terence Koh said. “We wanted her to seem like a 2-D sculpture, and relate it to AIDS, in a happy, beautiful sense. She’s puking out beautiful things.”

Gaga’s song was modified to address AIDS indirectly, by honoring MAC’s Viva Glam and the MAC AIDS Fund, for which she and Cyndi Lauper are the latest spokespeople, singing in the chorus, “Would you put me in your fu-future plans? We’ll live our lives so Viva Glam.”

Meryl Streep was on hand for a tribute to Natasha Richardson, singing a rendition of the Irish ballad “The Parting Glass.” “It really takes guts to get up and sing after Lady Gaga,” she joked.

“Lady Gaga was exciting and new,” said Rufus Wainwright, who also performed two songs, “and I’m a great admirer of hers, but I was surprised with Meryl Streep’s song. I lost my mother a few weeks ago, and I thought I could keep it together just fine, and of course, I failed. I cried. Thanks, Meryl!”

Elton John and his partner David Furnish were not present (the former is on tour with Billy Joel and the latter called in sick), so Gaga accepted amfAR’s award for their efforts to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS on their behalf.

“I know they’d so much like to be here,” Gaga told the audience, which included Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Julianne Margulis, Iman, and Brooke Shields. “I recently became good friends with them, and you get to feel like they’re someone you’ve known your whole life, and you’ve wanted to know your whole life. It’s fitting this award is about courage, because Elton was for me someone who represented a fearlessness to be who you are, and speak for the things you believe in, and really stand up for what you believe in. I will tell them you all said hello”

Meanwhile, Lauper dispelled rumors that she and Gaga were about to record a duet altogether, although she didn’t rule out a future collaboration. “We might do something,” she said. “I’d like it to be not just a commercial project, but maybe an art project. An installation or something. I’d have to see.”

- Rollingstone.com

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2nd Austrian Date Confirmed


Another Austrian concert has been announced for Elton and the Band. They will play on June 20, 2010 at Schwarzlsee, Graz. The concert is set to start at 7.00pm. Public tickets go on sale tomorrow, Friday February 12, from www.oetickets.com, or by calling +43196096.

- ej.com

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Billy & Elton Returning to Wrigley Field this July


Three nighttime concerts at Wrigley Field apparently aren't too much for the congested Lake View neighborhood to handle, according to the alderman whose ward includes the ballpark.

Elton John and Billy Joel and the Dave Matthews Band will headline three more concerts this summer at Wrigley, thanks to an "exception" to the night-game ordinance that Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) plans to introduce at Wednesday's City Council meeting.

Elton John and Billy Joel will reprise last year's wildly popular concerts on July 7 -- a Wednesday night.

The Dave Matthews Band -- whose bus driver notoriously unloaded 800 pounds of human waste on a tour boat passing under the Kinzie Street bridge in 2004 -- is expected to headline Friday and Saturday night concerts in September. The dates haven't been finalized. Matthews played Wrigley in 2007.

Last summer, the Cubs held an unprecedented three Wrigley concerts in one summer week -- two by Elton John and Billy Joel, one by Rascal Flatts.

When the Southport Neighbors Association argued that it was too big a burden, in part because of a conflict with the group's neighborhood festival, Tunney called it a one-year experiment. He promised that, if things didn't go well, "There'll be no more concerts."

On Tuesday, Tunney said the three-concert experiment was so successful that it's worth repeating.

He also said he hasn't decided yet whether to demand that the Cubs forfeit one of their 30 night games in return.

"There are certainly naysayers," Tunney said. "There have been naysayers about doing any concerts. But the majority of the community thinks the concerts, so long as they're regulated and few and far between, provide benefits to the community.

"It's great for business in the neighborhood. It also provides real, first-rate entertainment at the park."

Jill Peters, president of the Southport Neighbors Association, appears to be softening her opposition to the three Wrigley concerts after developing a "good working relationship" with the Ricketts family, the Cubs' new owners.

"We've been having lots of conversations back and forth," Peters said. " I'm trying to address some of the concerns neighbors have raised, and I'm hopeful the Cubs will resolve most, if not all, of these concerns."

She wouldn't say what those concerns are.

The motivation for the concert series for the Cubs is the chance to bring in money that wouldn't fall under Major League Baseball's revenue-sharing umbrella. For every dollar the Cubs make on game days, 34 cents must be shared with other teams. For every dollar from a concert, the Cubs get to keep 100 percent.

The concert precedent began in 2005 with a pair of Labor Day concerts by Jimmy Buffett. In exchange, the Cubs agreed to donate $150,000 to neighborhood schools, take a one-year break from concerts and forfeit one of their 30 night games the following season. The Buffett concerts ended at 10:30 p.m., and seating was capped at the baseball limit of 41,000.

In 2007, the Cubs were hoping to avoid the night-game penalty -- until Tunney put up a fuss. The alderman demanded -- and the Cubs agreed -- to play only 29 night games that year. The team also agreed to cut off stadium sales of beer and alcohol at 9:30 p.m., provide security in and around Wrigley until 2 a.m. and monitor sound levels during and after the concert.

Neighborhood protections for this year's concerts are still being negotiated.

- Suntimes.com

Israel Tickets Selling Very Fast


Promoters claim that tickets to Elton John's concert went on sale at 7 pm yesterday evening, and more than 5,000 tickets were sold within the first hour, according to “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal).
The tickets sold represent more than 10% of the available seats for the concert at Ramat Gan stadium.

Demand was so strong that the website processing the ticket requests collapsed, after more than 3,000 people entered the site within 15 minutes. However, the server was fixed.
When Leonard Cohen said he would be coming to Israel, tickets to his performance were sold out within 24 hours. It appears that tickets to Elton John's concert are selling at an even faster pace.

- Globes.co.il

Elton Not on Haiti Single


SIMON Cowell’s single in aid of Haiti has become the fastest-selling charity track of the century.

The song sold 200,000 copies in the first two days of its release as big-hearted Brits shelled out to help quake survivors.

And the celeb cover of Everybody Hurts is also tipped to smash records by hitting the biggest-ever first week sales for a charity single.

Figures released by the Official Charts Company show the 50-year-old X Factor boss’s effort has already pushed the 2008 ballad Hero, sung by the X Factor finalists in aid of wounded Brit soldiers, into second place.

That single, featuring reality show stars including Alexandra Burke, 21, and JLS, shifted just under 200,000 in its first two days and went on to become 2008’s fastest-selling single.

Uptown Girl, Westlife’s 2001 Comic Relief single, has been relegated to third spot. Experts now say the Haiti song, already at the top of the UK Download chart, will be at No 1 one for weeks.

Gennaro Castaldo, of HMV, said: “These early figures are absolutely amazing.
“This single will certainly be No 1 this Sunday and maybe for a number of weeks to come.

“We’re expecting it to have sold about half a million copies by the end of the week and hopefully that momentum will continue.”

And Martin Talbot, of the Official Charts Company, added: “This is a phenomenal achievement. The public are certainly not showing any signs of charity fatigue.”

Everybody Hurts was originally released as a single in 1993 by REM.

Star names on the track include Mariah Carey, 39, Jon Bon Jovi, 47, Kylie Minogue, 41, Rod Stewart, 65, Leona Lewis, 24, Cheryl Cole, 26, Robbie Williams, 35, and his former bandmates Take That.

Music insiders say the hit could even beat Elton John’s 1997 Diana tribute Candle In The Wind, which shifted 4.8million copies to become the biggest-selling single of all time.

- Daily Star

Friday, February 5, 2010

New Album Update - Near Completion


Basic tracks for Bernie and Elton’s new album with Leon Russell have been recently completed and the gang is about to start vocals and overdubs immediately. The trio has cut fifteen songs ranging from Stones like rockers, Country tinged ballads, Gospel and even a Sinatra like weepy similar to something torn from the grooves of “In the Wee Small Hours” As reported before it’s varied in scope and drenched in a rich tapestry of atmospherics. Don’t expect to hear the old EJ/BT sound; this is organic recording unlike anything you’ve heard from our duo before.

Leon continues to improve from the surgery that sidelined him in the initial stages and caused the media to over diagnose his condition. His playing is masterful as ever and his contribution to the project grows more exciting with the passing of everyday.

The players in the first two weeks of recording have included such T-Bone Burnett stalwarts as drummers Jim Keltner and Jay Bellerose, Bassist Dennis Crouch, guitar virtuoso Marc Ribot and additional keyboardist and tech wizard Keefus Ciancia.

- Bernie J Taupin

"Elton, Don't Play Israel" Says British Professor


Dear Elton John:

Like much of the world, we think you’re a good bloke. You came out when it was difficult; you admitted your addictions were stronger than you were; you’ve poured money into AIDS research. Oh, and then there’s the music – not bad at all.

But we’re struggling to understand why you’re playing in Israel on June 17. You may say you’re not a political person, but does an army dropping white phosphorus on a school building full of children demand a political response?

Does walling a million and a half people up in a ghetto and then pounding that ghetto to rubble require a political response from us, or a human one?

We think it needs a human response, and we think that by choosing to play in Tel Aviv you’re denying this. You’re
behaving as if playing in Israel is morally neutral – but how can it be? How can the cruelties Israel practises against the Palestinians – fundamentally because the Palestinians are there, on Palestinian land, and Israel wants them to go – be morally neutral?

Okay, you turn up in Ramat Gan, and it gets to that ‘Candle in the Wind’ moment, and thousands of lighters flicker – but there won’t be any Palestinians from the Occupied Territories swaying along with the Israelis – the army won’t let them leave their ghettoes. Please read what Judge Goldstone said about the onslaught on Gaza; what Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been saying for decades about the crimes committed against the Palestinians. Of course the Israeli state denies it has a case to answer, though it’s knee-deep in ethnic cleansing and land-theft and the endless daily suffocating of Palestinian lives and hopes.

Political or not political, when you stand up on that stage in Tel Aviv, you line yourself up with a racist state. Do you want to give them the satisfaction?

Please don’t go.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Haim Bresheeth
Mike Cushman
Professor Steven Rose
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead
London, February 2010

Extra Cape Town Performance Scheduled


94.5 Kfm and Big Concerts are excited to announce that Sir Elton John has added an extra Cape Town date to his South African Tour in March 2010. Ticket demand has been exceptional for his performance on Wednesday 24th March and as a consequence a second show has been added on Thursday March 25th 2010 at the Kirstenbosch Gardens. The legendary superstar will be joined by long-time collaborator and renowned percussionist, Ray Cooper. Be sure not to miss this incredible showman in a relaxed, picnic-style setting – “LIVE, Under African Skies”.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Seattle Review





Here's something you'll find only at a Billy Joel/Elton John concert: Air piano.

Instead of standard rock-guy faux-guitar contortions, fans — baby boomers and teenagers — were moved to impressionist ivory-tickling as the icons of piano pop played a three-hour, song-swapping concert at KeyArena. Part of the ongoing Face 2 Face Tour, Wednesday night was the first of two makeup dates at Key, which, along with a performance set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, recoup a pair scrapped in November due to John's illness.

He and Joel appeared hale and spirited on stage Wednesday night, John earringed, in sunglasses and wearing a black tailcoat and pink silk scarf that read "Stardust Kiss"; Joel subdued in a black jacket, slacks and T-shirt. Both are rounder and heavier — and in Joel's case, balder — than in their hitmaking heyday, but the weight of their songs has also increased with age.

Joel took the stage to "Yankee Doodle Dandy," John to "God Save the Queen." Rendering the tour title literally, they faced each other from behind Hummer-sized grand pianos, John stage right, Joel stage left. An enormous LED lighting rig curved above them, flanked on either side by a bass and treble clef, equally enormous. They began with John's "Your Song" and Joel's "Just the Way You Are," trading verses: just two voices and two pianos, unmistakable, captivating 17,000 fans.

From there, band members emerged until a full 11, including a pair of drummers, a pair of guitarists, a keyboardist, three hornmen and a bassist, were on stage for John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" and Joel's "My Life," led into via Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."

Joel exited the stage, and his piano sunk pneumatically beneath it, leaving John and his feather-haired, silk-suited, impeccably tight five-piece band. From deep in John's 1970s catalog, "Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" and "Madman Across the Water" both dipped into long, prog-rock instrumentals, meandering a bit before John's vocals brought the song back to earth.

"Tiny Dancer" and "Rocket Man" were ineluctable highlights, the latter featuring an extended outtro with John on boogie-woogie piano and his guitarist swapping electric and acoustic guitars. John dedicated "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" to the Chihuly family, seated up front, and Alice in Chains, one of his "favorite bands." He went disco-esque on "I'm Still Standing" and led an arenawide singalong of "Crocodile Rock's" lalalalalas before relinquishing the stage to Joel's six-piece band.

Compared to John's polished, permed sophisticates, Joel's crew — including longtime members Crystal Taliefero and Mark Rivera — looked like "Jersey Shore" and sounded like garage rock. Joel opened with the machine-gun piano prelude to "Angry Young Man" and riled the crowd with "Allentown" and "Anthony's Song," his piano rotating 360 degrees during the former.

He had a few choice words about the Tacoma Dome's sound ("like s — t") and his first gig in Seattle (circa '71 and a round of Boeing layoffs, at the long-defunct Fresh Air Tavern on Capitol Hill. "The place was a dump," he said, "but they had great beer.") "It's Still Rock 'n' Roll to Me" and "Only the Good Die Young" had all of KeyArena singing word-for-word as Joel, center stage, twirled his mic stand like a kid with a baton.

Midway through his set, Joel turned his attention to catcalls from the crowd. "Purple Haze?" he repeated, and without hesitation lead a rambunctious take on the Hendrix classic, seemingly off the cuff. (What kind of knucklehead requests "Purple Haze" at a Billy Joel concert? And what kind of rascal is Billy Joel for actually playing it?)

John and his band rejoined Joel for another round of shared songs. More than two hours into the show, the performers' energy level was still increasing and the crowd could barely handle it, on its feet and near hysterical for "You May Be Right" and "Benny and the Jets." Things settled down as the backing musicians left the stage, only John and Joel remaining to gently close with "Candle in the Wind" and "Piano Man," two signature songs from two beloved artists.

John/Joel

"Your Song"

"Just the Way You Are"

"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"

"My Life"

John's set

"Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding"

"Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting"

"Levon"

"Madman Across the Water"

"Tiny Dancer"

"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"

"Daniel"

"Rocket Man"

"Philadelphia Freedom"

"I'm Still Standing"

"Crocodile Rock"

Joel's set

"Angry Young Man"

"Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)"

"Allentown"

"Zanzibar"

"She's Always a Woman"

"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"

"Purple Haze"

"River of Dreams"

"We Didn't Start the Fire"

"It's Still Rock n Roll to Me"

"Only the Good Die Young"

John/Joel

"I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues"

"Uptown Girl"

"The Bitch Is Back"

"You May Be Right"

"Bennie and the Jets"

"Candle in the Wind"

"Piano Man"

- Seattle Times

Memorable quotes: "I'm probably going to get in trouble for saying this, but it sounds like shit." -- Billy Joel expressing his distaste for performing at the Tacoma Dome .
"I thought you were Lady GaGa for a minute." -- Elton John joking after a swift glance at his performance partner, in reference to his Grammy performance just days ago.

WTF moment: Two hours into the show, BJ and EJ emerged as a duo once more to perform "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues." The first several verses were plagued with annoying thumps and clinks. It wasn't until BJ barked, "Turn off that amp!" that someone--who understandably looked scared shitless--darted onstage to make the appropriate changes to the system. Get it together, people! You really needed one of the headliners to tell you what needed to be done?

Billy Elliot Coming to Minneapolis


“Billy Elliot,” the Broadway smash about a coal miner’s son who dreams of a life in ballet, will dance into the Twin Cities next season. The musical, composed by Elton John with lyrics by book writer Lee Hall, won 10 Tony Awards last year.

The show will be included in the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s Broadway season, the presenter announced Wednesday. It will run Dec. 16, 2010 - Jan. 9, 2011. Tickets go on sale at a later date.

"Billy Elliot" is based on a 2000 British film. It was adapted for the London stage in 2005 and opened in New York in 2008.
On Broadway, three boys alternated playing the title character. There is no word yet on casting for the tour.

- Star Tribune

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

First Band Show of 2010 Coming Very Soon...


Elton and the boys in the band will perform together with Billy Joel on February 3 in Seattle Washington at the Key Arena.

This is not only the first full band concert of 2010, it is the first with Billy Joel for 2010 and the first band performance since October 2009, when Elton fell ill and had to cancel several concerts.

If you are attending - enjoy!, good luck to the band and crew.