Monday, December 5, 2011

Brisbane Review - Elton Had Bronchitis

When Elton John announced he was suffering from bronchitis last night it came as more of a relief than a surprise.

Having provided noticeably flat vocals to openers Saturday's Night's Alright for Fighting and I'm Still Standing it seemed the Brisbane Entertainment Centre crowd might have had another case of Meat Loafitis on our hands.

But instead this veteran entertainer was battling a cough so rough that he said doctors had told him not to play.

I'm Still Standing seemed fitting. John periodically coughed and spluttered through the first half of the set, but being a true professional, he never missed a line.

What was clearer than his throat was the fact he was going to have a major fight on his hand continuing to rise to the task tonight.

Never mind the fact his weakened vocals were often lost in the mix and his breathing seemed to restrict his ability to hold on to notes, he was also, apparently dealing with his partner David Furnish flying back to the US from Australia, having fallen ill.

If this was weighing on his mind John did not allude to this predicament as he pressed on to deliver a suite of classic tunes from 1971's Madman Across The Water, his booming voice seemingly unaffected on the soulfully southern Levon but his condition taking the edge off the reaching chorus of Tiny Dancer.

Dressed in a modest-by-his-standards jacket littered with sequins, John leapt up from his piano after practically every song to thank different sections of the audience.

In return he asked for a bit of audience participation to help him tackle the chorus of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, despite noting he wasn't usually a fan of crowd sing-alongs (they're “knaff” apparently).

But, he said, this was a special occasion because of his condition, and the title track of his most acclaimed work boasted “probably the best chorus I've ever written”.

His pleas got the desired result, the crowd on their feet at the song's conclusion after a spectacular live version.

Delivering a set which favoured his pop material over saccharine ballads, John easily won over the large and appreciative Boondall crowd. Even his newer material, such as the mighty Leon Russell collaboration Hey Ahab, was generously received.

Just before delivering his strongest vocal performances of the night (seemingly aided by a change in the levels and adjustments onstage) he relayed his own appreciation to the audience for their understanding. His booming voice returned for Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word and an epic Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me.

By now a group of fans had begun to congregate at the front of the stage, liberated from their seats for a dance-inducing run of Bennie and the Jets, The Bitch is Back and Crocodile Rock.

After a brief exit John returned to the stage and signed autographs for the front section before launching into Your Song, which further hit home that despite his condition, tonight was a night when he would not let his fans down.

Which, with both he and his partner ill, would not have been an easy pledge to see through.

- Brisbane Times

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