Elton was playing his only outdoor show on the Australian tour at the Canberra Stadium, a traditional sport venue. One thing I wasn't prepared for was how bitterly cold it can get at night in Canberra. Elton was prepared however, with two gas burners by his side and four very attractive young gentleman sitting directly in front of him, whom he ogled throughout the night.
This was my first taste of Schmidt. Apparently Michael Chugg spotted this German band when he was at a club in Los Angeles scouting tour supports for Elton. Let me just say this - they are superb! I really love their new age jazz sound with a touch of Amy Winehouse. The vocals are encapsulating and the band (including a soulful Sax) were top notch, hats off to some rocking guitar solos and bluesy keyboard boogie.
The show was, as expected, identical to all of Elton's shows. He is like a well-oiled machine, pumping out song after song as if it were his last. What amazed me on this tour was the excellence of the backing band. People are often so starstruck by Elton that they fail to notice the hard work his band put into every performance. A special hats off to John Mahon, Davey Johnstone and Kim Bullard!
John puts his whole being into playing all kinds of percussion devices and beats - take a look at him next time you can - he really is mesmerising. Davey is, as he always is, a bloody talented man! He makes several guitars, a mandolin and a banjo sing to the heavens. His role as musical director ensures the cohesiveness and high standard of musicianship within the band is maintained at every concert. Kim has a very difficult task, he has to watch one of the most talented pianists in the world and not only play backing fill and additional melody/bass but he has to adjust his playing to accommodate any sudden changes and/or cover the rare mistake by Elton John! He does an incredible job and really shines in his Funeral for a Friend solo.
Tata Vega, Rose Stone, Lisa Stone and Jean Witherspoon really shine in the mix too. Their standout pieces for me were the duet with Elton on I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues and the high backing during Hey Ahab. A commendable performance.
It was disappointing to hear that the 2Cellos will be departing the Elton John band at the end of this year. Elton said that 'they will be leaving the nest as they are too popular for us now'. Their acoustic additions to Believe, Your Song and Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters will be sadly missed.
The additional bass required for an open air gig, coupled with the still night air made for splendid sound performance. Hats off to Matt Herr for a great mix. But what made this show most memorable for me was a handshake from Elton - something I have been trying to get for over seven years. The high stage meant that my tall body was one of the few that was long enough to reach Sir Elton and get a handshake during the ovation for Rocket Man. Something that means a lot to me and I will cherish forever.
- Paul Jelicich