Friday, November 30, 2012

My Sydney Review

Sydney is a special place for Elton, he was married here (to a woman), had throat surgery here, and has an enormous fan base that loves him dearly. Thursday's show with the band would be his 45th concert at the famous Sydney Entertainment Centre. The SEC has hosted Elton more than any other artist and even has an 'Elton John Suite' filled with memorabilia. Elton commented that 'the SEC is one of my favourite venues in the world to play. This is the third most shows i've done at any venue, behind madison Square Garden and Vegas.'

I loved the low stage and somewhat intimate feeling the venue offered. You can feel musical history living inside its walls, there is some kind of special magic at this arena. Elton seems to feed of this magic and amplify it into the audience. He seemed genuinely happy to be playing for us. The band were in fine form and were really playing for the crowd. I admit I can get a bit carried away with the music, It takes over my mind and the beat goes through me like a wave of emotion. I laughed when I saw John mouth to Nigel 'that guy should be in the band' and pointing at me with a drumstick in one hand while playing cymbals with another. What can I say? I know the music well.

It's sad to hear that such an iconic and well maintained venue is to be demolished at the end of 2013. Personally, I think it is ludicrous and a waste of money. Elton agrees with me commenting 'I'm so sad they are gonna pull this place down, but we'll be back before they do.' I guess good comes with the bad, hopefully Elton will be the last to play the SEC in late 2013 the day before the diggers destroy Sydney's musical soul and cultural backbone.

Prior to Hey Ahab, Elton spoke about his work with idol Leon Russell on The Union and how he has a new album coming out in May. It was interesting to note the release delay of three months. A special Australian touch was added to Crocodile Rock, the Australian alternate national anthem Waltzing Matlida in which the audience sang along to Elton's melodic piano playing.

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters received a special introduction during the tour. Elton took this opportunity to dedicate it to the people of New York City. Here is an excerpt of his introduction;

'I've played many important occasions throughout my career. Many of them sad, many of them happy and some tragic. One of the ones that moved me the most was the Concert for 9/11. I'll never forget the image of the plane going into the building. The general feeling among the audience was of strength and love, and it was an amazing experience for those that played at that show. I didn't know what to play - I can't play Crocodile Rock, not appropriate [audience laughs], so we sang Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters'.

This was a beautiful tribute and a deeply emotive segment of the show. Simple white high density beam lighting and Davey on the Mandolin with 2Cellos on cello allows the song to tell its story without excess complication. It really is a touching moment in the concert.

Friday, November 16 is a date that I will never forget. This is the day that Sir Elton John sat directly in front of me and played my favourite song The One live accompanied only by a solitary piano. This is a song I have been waiting to hear live since I was fourteen years old. I will never forget the moment my heart fluttered as he sang my favourite lyrics to what seemed to be just  me.

This exclusive solo show with Sydney duo Pnau was for me the best concert I have ever seen. The set list of classics rolls like a list of biblical verses. The One, Sixty Years On, I Need You to Turn To, The Greatest Discovery, Border Song, Someone Saved My life Tonight and Nikita. It was simply a dream come true.

The beauty of seeing Elton solo is that it is all about the music, it is mesmerising to watch him play piano and magically the sound of an entire orchestra somehow seems to sing from the speaker stacks. His wizard-like ability was apparently observed by Chris martin of Coldplay and Elton's band. Elton uses the opportunity of not having to rehearse the band to throw in some deep cuts from his early career that are less known. I Need You To Turn To enjoys a rich history with Australia as it was a key element in the Live in Australia concert series. It was a joy to see and hear songs that I rarely get the chance to experience. He played a stellar version of Levon, I'm Still Standing and Believe. Rocket Man employed the extended version and additional strings provided by back-line MIDI towers. Rocket Man proved it's everlasting appeal and right of passage as tour name by receiving a rapturous applause.

Elton's two hour solo set, following from the 2Cellos (with John Mahon) and Schmidt was capped off by an amazing once-in-a-lifetime performance by Elton vs Pnau - the new creation of Sydney electro band Pnau. After some technical difficulties with Elton's keyboard not being connected properly, the four song set roared to life and a somewhat uncomfortable looking Elton set out to show the would that he can still influence modern music.

Sad and Good Morning to the Night really rocked, Pnau had great energy (although a little shy), Elton sounded young after being run through a voice adjuster and it was a rare opportunity to see him play a Yamaha keyboard. Phoenix and Telegraph to the Afterlife were a very special treat - the only time they have ever been played live. Peter on guitar rocked Telegraph to a new level and it was great to see Elton warming up to a new exposed stage presence. The climax came with Are You Ready For Love and a very unique extended version that sounded exquisite. A remixed lead-out allowed for Elton and Pnau to really jam and prove that they really are conquering modern music. Incidentally Good Morning to the Night reached a number 3 on the Australian ARIA album charts prior to the show.

A group bow ended the spectacular evening, an evening of firsts for everyone in the room. A night that was incredibly special in so many ways.

- Paul Jelicich

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