Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Elton Has Audio Problems in Saskatoon

He could have played the spoons, for all they cared.

Eager Elton John fans were clamouring for more as the crocodile rocker played a set chockfull of hits at Credit Union Centre Tuesday night.

The band opened with the eerie Funeral for a Friend, from 1973's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and the near-capacity crowd sprang to its feet as John took the stage, sporting a black sequined suit adorned with flowers and silver trim and a skull across the back.

Following the third song, Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting), the mic in John's piano gave out briefly.

"Can you hear that," he asked, just before it kicked back in for Madman Across the Water, the title track from his 1971 album.

The song was a highlight of the night, with cool percussion, and soulful backup from his chorus of four female singers.

The song loped along, lizard-like, as John hammered out some jazzy runs on the piano.

John, who hammed it up for the crowd throughout the performance, had a bit of a tantrum early in the set as the mic problems continued, twice knocking over his water in frustration at the end of songs.

Finally the crew came out and replaced the mic, as John stood up, shrugged and smiled.

"Mind you, I beat the s---out of it, so I can't complain," he quipped.

Tiny Dancer and Rocket Man were definite favourites, with the crowd swaying and singing along. They probably milked the end of Rocket Man a bit much - first moving into a funk jam before doing drawn-out series of shots, scatting along 'I'm a rocket man, a rocket man," with heavy delay on the vocals. But the faithful loved it.

After running through an assortment of hits, John played a collection of tracks from his new album The Union, asking for patience from the audience who were raring for the classics.

The Union is a collaboration between John and Leon Russell, who got his start as part of Phil Spector's studio group before forging a career of his own and playing with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Willie Nelson.

John called Russell his biggest influence.

These new tracks evoked a range of emotions, blending elements of soul, honky-tonk and straight-up piano-man balladry.

The first from the Union, called Hey Ahab, featured off-the-charts vocals from one of the backup singers. The woman sang her lungs out.

Another standout from the new songs was the tune Gone to Shiloh, about the U.S. Civil War. The catchy piano hook was anchored by the marching military drum beat.

Not to disappoint the fans, John finished the set with another string of hits, such as Benny and the Jets, The Bitch is Back and Crocodile Rock.

The ticket prices may have been exorbitant, but John did not disappoint. He really seemed to be having a hell of a time, grinning widely throughout.

How could anyone be disappointed with a man who can keep up that level of energy during a set that lasts more than two hours?

- the star phoenix

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