Saturday, June 24, 2017

Davey Chats About Playing Blackburn

WHENEVER you see footage of Elton John playing live, the chances are you will see Davey Johnstone stood close by.

Davey has been Elton’s guitarist for over 45 years and has taken part in nearly 3,000 shows with him ranging from spectacular events such as Live Aid to regular residencies in Las Vegas.

Since 1988 he has been the band’s musical director, and will once again be Elton’s right hand man as the star comes to Blackburn Rovers Ewood Park next month for an open air show.

“It’s going to be brilliant to play Blackburn,” he said. “One of the reasons Elton takes his shows to places which bands don’t often go to is that people are genuinely pleased that you are going to their area.

“There is something about it when you get up to the north, it just tends to be a little bit more crazy,

“That goes back to when I was in the folk scene even before I joined Elton. I’ve always noticed that people have more willingness to get involved with the band and have a good time and that’s remained to this day.”

Elton was forced to cancel a series of shows in America after contracting a ‘potentially deadly’ bacterial infection during a tour of South America in April. But his East Lancashire date will definitely be going ahead.

“Not being about to do shows because he’s recuperating is probably driving him up the wall,” said Davey. “He’s probably been going nuts but I told him ‘it’s important that you get strong’. After all none of us are getting any younger.”

Although Elton is now 70 and Davey himself 66, their energy and enthusiasm for performing remains undiminished.

“My kids are the best barometer of how we’re doing,” said Davey. “They certainly keep you grounded and remind you when you’re getting carried away. But they have seen a lot of different bands and have been to festivals such as Coachella and Bonnaroo and yet they will still say things like ‘we’ve seen all these guys but you guys rock. You know how to bring it’.

“That makes you feel really good. I know that some bands perhaps rely on technology a bit too much to put on a show. We don’t do that, we just kick ass and get on with it. Wherever and whenever we play we go in there and just bang it out and have a lot of fun. It’s infectious.”

Davey admitted that the whole band draw a lot of energy from the crowd.

“Elton has begun to acknowledge this towards the end of our gigs,” said Davey. “He’ll mention how much the connection between the audience and band means to him. But that’s why we do it. Let’s be honest, we wouldn’t be doing it for the money, we do it because we genuinely enjoy it.”

Davey first played with Elton John in 1971 having previously been a member of folk rock group Magna Carta.

“You know, I only found out the other day that Michael Chapman suggested me to Elton,” said Davey. Chapman, one of the UK’s most celebrated singer songwriters recently celebrated his 50th anniversary in music.

“I’ve known Michael for years and yet he’s never mentioned it, so there you are, a little exclusive for you,” laughed Davey.

Elton John has remained loyal to his musicians throughout his career. The current band includes drummer Nigel Olsson with whom he first worked in the early Seventies.

“Nigel rejoined the band after an absence of over 16 years,” said Davey, “and it was so great to have him back. It’s his legacy and his birthright.”

Davey revealed a little of the preparations which go into the live shows, including a details which may surprise people.

“Elton never comes to rehearsals,” he said. “For the last 10 years we’ve used a guy I call my Elton John surrogate, Adam Chester, who is a brilliant singer and piano player and a huge fan. So I use him as Elton in rehearsals so that Elton himself doesn’t have to come in, he hates rehearsing.

“I’ll get the whole band in and we’ll rehearse a bunch of songs. Then I’ll take them to Elton and he’ll go through it saying ‘I love that, I don’t want to do that, let’s try this one instead’ or ‘let’s take this down a key or two’’.

“But it’s all about putting on the best show we can.”

I ask Davey if he keeps a record of all the shows and he candidly admits “I have no clue how many shows I’ve done.

“We played Glasgow in 2000 and there were banners everywhere saying it was my 2,000th show, I hadn’t a clue.”

But he did reveal that he is working on something which fans will love.

“I am compiling a story of sorts of our exploits over the years,” he said. “But that won’t come out for some time as we’re still doing it. The story isn’t done yet.”

- Lancanshire Telegraph

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