Thursday, December 15, 2011

Melbourne Reviews

ELTON John has an almost forensic knowledge of new music. He employs someone to buy him every new album released each week - what a great job. To still have such passion after years in the business for music is inspiring.

But Elton realises not everyone shares his habit for discovering new music. So his concerts have as many hits shoehorned in as humanly possible.

No one is going home from an Elton John concert saying they didn’t hear Your Song, Rocket Man, Candle in the Wind or even Crocodile Rock.

Even at last night's sold-out Rod Laver Arena show, when Elton drops older album tracks like Holiday Inn or the lengthy Madman Across the Water, he's got a Tiny Dancer, I'm Still Standing or Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in reserve from one of the most-loved back catalogues in rock.

Of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road he notes "this song has an exceptionally good chorus even if I do say so myself." He's right.

For those interested in more than just lovingly served nostalgia, there’s a three-song selection from his acclaimed recent album The Union with Leon Russell.

Those who rudely used the back-to-back new songs as a chance to go to the bar or toilet should have crossed their legs – it was one of the show's best moments, his band clearly enjoying some new musical blood.

With audio in concerts an issue this week, it must be said Elton and his excellent band sounded crystal clear.

Young Croatian You Tube discoveries Two Cellos have joined his band - and as Elton notes have "lowered the average age of the band by 30 years".

And what other artist could bust out Sad Songs (Say So Much), Daniel, 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 and The Bitch is Back - not just in the one concert but all in a row.

Sure, you could probably name 10 Elton songs you’d rather hear than Crocodile Rock, but Elton’s always been a professional people pleaser, which makes a change from self-indulgent rock stars dodging the hits or lazy ones doing short sets.

Elton plays Rod Laver Arena again tonight - get there by 7.50pm to see Two Cellos reinvent U2, Nirvana and AC/DC and give classical music an injection of grunt and grunge.

- Herald Sun

An Elton John show is not so much as a walk, more of a jog through music history. With a career spanning more than 40 years there is so many songs to get through.

Elton John, Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson - Photo By Ros O'Gorman
The Elton John shows reflects his passage of time through arguably the most creative years of Rock Music ever.

I’d forgotten how good a song like ‘Take Me To The Pilot’ was. The same can be said for the complexity of the title track from ‘Madman Across The Water’. Elton performed an epic extended version.

‘Madman Across The Water’ was one of two of his feature albums last night. On the last tour he showcased the ‘Elton John’ (1970) album and on this tour four songs from Madman including the title track, ‘Levon’, ‘Tiny Dancer’ and ‘Holiday Inn’ were brought to life. Elton said Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics for ‘Holiday Inn’ on their first USA tour. It is about staying in cheap hotels where all the rooms looked the same.

The other featured album was the recent and grossing overlooked ‘The Union’ with Leon Russell. It is one of my favourite albums of the past year but was ignored by most of the media. He performed ‘Hey Ahab’, ‘Gone To Shiloh’ and ‘Monkey Suit’. If you missed this album, please go back and discover it. It will be worth it.

‘Rocket Man’ was given the improve treatment. It is no wonder the song has evolved since we first heard it on ‘Honky Chateau’ album in 1972. It is his third most played song. He has played it live 738 times. The jazzed up version of the Elton classic went for maybe 10 minutes. (For the record, the two most played songs ahead of it are ‘Your Song’ (805 times) and ‘Bennie and the Jets’ (739 times).

Elton’s band featured long-term drummer (since 1969) Nigel Olsson and guitarist and the band’s musical director (since 1971) Davey Johnstone. On backing vocals, it was also wonderful to hear Rose Stone from Sly & The Family Stone.

New to the band were Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser from 2Cellos who opened the set with classical interpretations of pop and rock songs from Michael Jackson, U2, Nirvana and AC/DC. Then Elton and the band comes of stage for their 2 3/4 half hour set.

- Noise 11

When a legend of the music industry comes to town there is a reason they will sell out every ticket in a venue over and over.

Whether they still have it or don't the hits keep people flocking in and the bucket list will always give a fair chunk of people a reason to go. The fear for these events is the question of 'does the performer still have what it takes?' Sir Elton John has it, and then some.

Starting the main performance with the latest members of the band, the duo 2 Cellos the young musical prodigies took the classical instruments to the rock age performing renditions of Michael Jackson, U2, Nirvana and AC/DC. From this point the rest of the band joined in and they began.

Kicking of the near 3 hour set with Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting) Elton didn't spend time revving up the crowd, he just walked on stage and slammed his hands on the keys.

Vocally while he doesn't hit the high notes of yester year he has a vocal range that still impresses, and as the hits rolled on he captivated the full house. Even though the voice will always lose out to age, his work on the piano is a sight to behold. If anything Elton has continued to perform unrivalled on the ebony and ivory, soloing through each song and receiving applause from the wowed crowd.

As the tour is called 'Greatest Hits Tour' you can gather what that entails, but certainly Elton has injected something a little different for both himself and the diehard fans.

Playing 3 tracks from his album with Leon Russell The Union, Elton showed the depth to his work, and whether you know the songs or not he will still hold you captive.

The album best represented track wise was Madman Across The Water from which Tiny Dancer, Levon, Holiday Inn and the title track were played and at points it felt like being transported back to 1971 as Elton performed with his original drummer Nigel Olsson and his guitarist since that album Davey Johnstone.

If you have ever gotten a shiver from listening to music it is supposedly your body releasing endorphins through enjoyment. As Elton hit the first note for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road I started getting the shiver and at that point I knew I was watching someone who may not be performing for a lot longer and it may be the only time I get to see him.

If you would like a guaranteed way of getting people up and dancing in the aisles then close out your music set with Bennie and the Jets, The Bitch Is Back and Crocodile Rock.

Growing up listening to Elton John this music is engrained in my music education and a great discovery is find that Elton can belt out these songs like he always has and nothing is holding him back. He can still sit at his piano, spotlight on and make you feel like he is singing straight to you.

A fitting goodbye was the encore Your Song as it created a cheerful atmosphere and kept people humming as they left the stadium. No one leaving the performance could feel cheated after a hit laden set from a man who at the age of 64 still sounds like he did in the 90's and to use a horrible play on a couple of classics, Elton John is definitely still standing and won't let the sun go down on him any time soon.

8 pairs of oversized sunglasses out of 10

Reviewer: Nick Thompson

- Take 40

LEGEND has it that in 1975, one in every 50 albums sold was an Elton John record. In the intervening decades the legendary singer-songwriter has accrued more than 30 albums, so last night's soldout Rod Laver Arena show was never going to be short on big hits.

John, in his 60s, and less flamboyantly attired than he once was (as could possibly be said for much of his audience), launched straight into it with the 1973 hit Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting) and his 1980s track I'm Still Standing, before a bracket from his 1971 album Madman Across The Water, including an epic version of Levon with cellos and a rousing Tiny Dancer.

John didn't seem to be suffering the bronchitis he had at last week's Brisbane show, but still urged the 12,000-strong crowd to sing along with Yellow Brick Road, and seemed to be singing in a lower register in the hit-laden, if sluggish, set.

a smattering of new material, he played '70s and '80s hits including Rocket Man, Honey Cat, I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues and Don't Let The Sun Go Down on Me.

But it wasn't just John and his band who have aged - it was a polished, but sedate show enjoyed by an audience happy to forsake dancing in the aisles for the occasional air punch.


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