I was in row 32 on the floor for Elton John, and enjoyed the show more thanks to the two huge video screens that provided a great view. The giddy 50-something ladies I sat beside brought album covers and waved them constantly when they danced during the non-ballad songs.
When Elton appeared onstage to a thunderous ovation, the crowd naturally rose to their feet, only to sit down a couple of minutes later. At the end of the first song, they stood up again to show their appreciation. Typically, during the slower songs, many people sat down.
Dressed in dark brown shades and a large black tailed shirt with elaborate embroidery of Rocket Man artwork, Elton would immediately stand up and point to various people in the crowd after playing a song.
The crowd went nuts when Elton played “Bennie and the Jets.” I don’t know if EJ was aware of the significance of the song for Winnipeggers. Winnipeg had an NHL hockey team, the Jets, from 1972 to 1996, when they moved to the US and became the Phoenix Coyotes. Ben Hatskin was the first owner of the Jets, hence the connection to the song. Unlike some performers, EJ made a point of introducing all the members of the band. Both guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson are original members.
If you’ve seen EJ’s Madison Square Garden concert DVD, then you’ve seen what the stage more or less looked like. There were no curtains and you could see the band with unobstructed views from behind the stage. Once the show sold out, a decision was made to sell the seats behind the stage. The show was the fastest sellout in the history of the four year-old downtown arena. A second show was quickly announced for the next day. The sound was excellent, among the best that I’ve heard. The band was tight, with no obvious mistakes. If anything, it was just slightly a bit too loud for me, but I didn’t notice anyone complaining.
They tacked on a mini-jam at the end of “Rocket Man,” but it was so limp that it took away from the classic tune rather than added to it. With a bit more fire and passion, they could have really had something special. I really wanted to see some passionate jams, but alas, this wasn’t to be.
I have a lot of respect for anyone who can play for two and half hours straight before taking a break, as Elton and the band did this evening (and on the entire tour, I would guess.)
After a five-minute break at the end of the first set, he appeared on stage by himself, walked around acknowledging the audience’s explosive applause and then he did what I have never seen any artist, let alone one of his stature, do. He walked along the front of the stage and signed autographs for what seemed like ten minutes straight. This brought on even more cheering from the fans.
When I saw pop impresario Todd Rundgren a couple of years ago in one of the local cabarets, he signed one measly autograph and then bolted from the stage like someone basking in his own self-importance. You clearly had a sense that Elton John loves his audience as much as they love him.
At this point, I wasn’t sure if the show was over (after all, 2.5 hours is a long gig by anyone’s standards) or if he would play more tunes. The band quickly burst into “Pinball Wizard,” and when long-time guitarist Davey Johnstone cranked out the opening riffs on his red Gibson Flying V, he looked not unlike KK Downing, with his thin frame and long blond locks.
There was no opening act and none was missed by me.
My rating for this show is 4.5/5.
Funeral For A Friend
Love Lies Bleeding
The Bitch Is Back
Madman Across the Water
Take Me To The Pilot
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me
All the Young Girls Love Alice
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Candle In The Wind
Bennie And The Jets
I’m Still Standing
Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)