Sunday, December 20, 2015
Elton Says Goodbye to The Sydney Entertainment Centre
Tick. Tick. Tick. And look, there's Tiny Dancer (with Davey Johnstone unafraid to rock the none-more-'70s double-necked guitar). Definitely a very big tick.
But wait, this last night of the room formerly known as the Entertainment Centre, came with a bonus: the occasional dip into the less illuminated corners of the catalogue, such as All The Girls Love Alice, a romping bit of semi-glam pop usually forgotten as an album track, and the southern rock-edged Levon.
You could defend that by saying if he is going to indulge us then he can indulge himself too. Except of course that album tracks from the near-perfect likes of Madman Across The Water and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road aren't exactly leftovers are they?
Give me that kind of "indulgence", and the soul rock Hey Hey Ahab from his more recent album with Leon Russell, over anything from what historians will call the TBY, Terrible Boater Years, such as the (thankfully absent) Nikita or the (sadly all too present) I'm Still Standing any day.
Balancing all these needs of course is not necessarily simple but from the scene-setting opening instrumental package of Love Lies Bleeding and Funeral For A Friend, into Bennie And The Jets and Candle In The Wind, and then the set closing Your Sister Can't Twist and Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting, John made the frame for the night feel easy.
Not perfect, mind you. Philadelphia Freedom was good fun but a bit short of great as his deeper, less soaring voice didn't pin that song to the wall the way it once did. The far inferior TBY song I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues suffered from a similar vocal let down.
And I could have done without pretty much all of the synth-sweetening when keyboardist Kim Bullard gave us "strings" and things.
The best parts were always when the core of his classic lineup, Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson - now with bass player Matt Bissonette and percussionist John Mahon - classily framed John's piano and voice. Your Song was probably the best example and there could have been more like that and the everybody-jumping Bitch Is Back.
For all that, I think it's fair to say that the preceding farewell shows this week by Cold Chisel and John Farnham (and, importantly, their equally physically involved fans) had more sustained drive and fin d'une epoque energy than Elton John and band mustered.
Either of those acts could have given us the real barn burner the final "last ever" show demanded. It would have been right.
But this has been John's room for three decades and 40-plus shows, and history is on his side. History and a bring-the curtain-down song like Crocodile Rock.
"Learning fast as the weeks went past, we really thought the crocodile rock (and the Entertainment Centre) would last."
ELTON John’s swan song for the Sydney Entertainment Centre was less about farewelling the arena than it was about him proving why he remains one of the most enduring and popular entertainers of the modern pop era.
John holds the record for the most concerts at the venue with his Saturday gig his 46th show and the final one before it meets the wrecking ball and they put up an apartment block.
Few artists enjoy a long association with a venue or a city, unless it’s Vegas.
John has Vegas AND the Entertainment Cent, where he infamously set up his backstage area as Bondi Beach for one tour, attended by speedo-wearing waiters.
“I have played this place 46 times now ... it’s been part of my life,” he said.
“I want to send it off with a big bang.”
- Daily Telegraph
Elton John has thumped out Benny And The Jets for the last time at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
Elton is still standing but the bulldozers are moving in on the Qantas Credit Union Arena (the Haymarket venue's most recent moniker). Elton gave the concrete barn a fantastic send-off on Saturday.
Most Sydneysiders have seen at least one great gig at the Ent Cent in its 32 years - be it Springsteen, Farnham, Chisel or a Schools Spectacular.
But none could have brought down the curtain like Elton, giving his 46th performance at the venue.
Few in the capacity crowd of 13,000 seemed upset about the centre's imminent demise. Perhaps the saddest person was on stage in the glittering blue suit. He apparently hates playing Homebush.
Elton told the crowd it was "a sad occasion" and that the Ent Cent "has been a part of my life when I've come to Australia".
Last time I saw Elton in concert was in the 1990s. The music has hardly changed but today, at 68, Elton seems healthier and happier, a showman from his gilded mop-top to his gold slippers.
Elton and his tight five-man band, including two veterans, guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson, played "All the Hits" (the name of this tour). They kicked off with Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.
Then came Benny And The Jets - and 42 years on, the opening bars still thrilled. So did Levon, The One, Tiny Dancer, Daniel, Burn Down The Mission and countless other hits, all served up with no trace of tiredness to a rapt, dancing-in-the-aisles audience.
He asked us to sing along to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road because, after all, it was Saturday night and "the last night here".
Elton's sad songs never said so much as on Saturday, when phones swayed like candles in the wind. We were transported back to our youth, or at least Princess Di's funeral.
The audience listened politely to Elton's more recent musical oeuvre (Captain Ahab, anyone?), but were much happier with Philadelphia Freedom, Your Song, and Rocket Man ... It's gonna be a long long time till someone gets more standing ovations.
When Elton cranked up to a finale of The Bitch is Back, I'm Still Standing and Saturday - then did Crocodile Rock as an encore - he literally brought the house down. And we all la-lahed along.
Elton deftly avoided high notes, but he played that piano like the pub pianist he was in the years before he teamed up with lyricist Bernie Taupin and wrote himself into pop history.
Elton is a star with staying power. Don't shoot the piano player but the sun has gone down on the Ent Cent. Great music will find another home.
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