Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The tantrums and tiaras are long gone but Elton John can still summon good old Las Vegas glitz in any venue big enough to fit his grand piano and superstar ego.
Days after performing to 35,000 fans in Dunedin, New Zealand, the British singer downsized to Sydney's more intimate Lyric Theatre for the start of his nine-date Australian tour.
Opening with Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting and I'm Still Standing, John tore through a time warp of hits nearly 40 years to the day since he first toured Australia.
Songs like Benny And The Jets and Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me have aged beautifully over that time, as has Australia's love affair with the enigmatic and enduring showman.
John first performed at Randwick Racecourse in 1971 and later married his ex-wife Renate Blauel in Sydney. He paid tribute to the thousands of fans who have watched and supported him throughout his career.
"Thank you for a long time of love and appreciation," John said, decked out in diamante encrusted lounge suit with the initials EJ glittering.
"I got married here to a lovely lady, divorced a lovely lady and then got married to a great guy."
The ballad Your Song was dedicated to the Sydney fans who offered him several standing ovations during a mammoth set stretching for 25 songs and almost two and a half hours.
Before that, the Piano Man showed off his ivory skills on songs like Levon and Sad Songs (Say So Much), treating the crowd to rock star posturing throughout and cartwheeling off his piano before a rousing rendition of The Bitch Is Back.
Age may have withered the hard-to-reach high notes in staples Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word and Tiny Dancer, but his backing singers, including Rose Stone of Sly And The Family Stone, made up any shortfalls.
Rocket Man is a point in case. Its high notes may have been blunted but not so its soaring verve, with the song reinvented by a cosmic piano outro complete with chanting and echo.
Material from last year's album The Union, a collaboration with longtime mentor and idol Leon Russell, stood up alongside an overflow of classics, notably the rowdy Hey Ahab.
Another, Gone To Shiloh, includes a lyric from songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, nicely tying up the old and the new, but inevitably it was their timeless creations such as Candle In The Wind and I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues which held the most sway.
Elton John's tour continues until December 11.
- Yahoo 7
AFTER more than two hours on stage, long enough to provoke a steady stream of audience members to sneak off quietly for breaks, ordinary folk might have felt like a breather.
But there was Elton John - at 64, in burgundy shirt and sparkling, monogrammed black jacket and dark glasses - standing on the piano, one foot on the stool and the other up on the lid, encouraging the crowd to lift their voices and clap their hands and make some noise. The tickets weren't cheap, and the audience rose to its feet for this legendary, hard-working entertainer who had plenty music left in him yet.
This is John's 15th tour of Australia, which in itself is a remarkable feat. Indeed, with millions of albums sold and a procession of awards to his name, as well as an embarrassment of hits, there aren't many singers alive who can match this kind of longevity and consistency. As this concert made clear, more than four decades in the spotlight produces a flawless musical machine.
The evening began with John's new opening act, two young Croatian cellists who vigorously take their bows to popular Smooth Criminal and other pop songs. They were then joined on stage by John and his band, which launched immediately into Saturday Night's Alright. From then they hardly took a breath: the band powered through songs from John's long career, from classics such as Rocket Man, Candle In the Wind, Crocodile Rock and Bennie and The Jets to lesser known tracks such as Gone to Shiloh (from last year's album The Union, with Leon Russell) and Holiday Inn (from Madman Across the Water).
He dedicated Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me to George Michael, currently in hospital in Austria suffering from pneumonia, and not yet well enough, according to John, to take calls. "This one's for you, my angel," he said, before delivering a passionate rendition of the song. And later, after a sip of water from the glass beside the piano, he reminisced about his relationship with Sydney, where he married his sound engineer in 1984, saying it was great to be back, this time with his son.
The whole show - it lasted for just over 2 1/2 hours - went off with professional precision. That meant few surprises for a crowd that was given exactly what they came for.
John himself was full of energy the whole time: his voice sounded full and warm, and he played the piano with the verve of a much younger man. So it is not to criticise his band, an 11-piece ensemble that included four female backing singers and the two cellists mentioned above, to observe that the only thing lacking from the occasion was for him to play one of those famous songs alone.
- The Australian
Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)
I'm Still Standing
Madman Across the Water
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Candle in the Wind
I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues
Gone To Shiloh
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
Take Me to The Pilot
Bennie and the Jets
The Bitch Is Back
(Same set at both nights)