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Concert Review: Elton John At MTS Centre, Winnipeg, MB, 09/19/2008

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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
Tiny Dancer

Take Me To The Pilot
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Rocket Man
Honky Cat
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
Sad Songs
Philadelphia Freedom
I’m Still Standing
Crocodile Rock
Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)

Pinball Wizard
Your Song

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About Triniman

Almost weekly, Triniman catches new movies, and adds one or two CDs to his collection. Due to time constraints, he blogs about only 5% of the CDs, books and DVDs that he purchases. Holed up in the geographic centre of North America, the cultural mecca of Canada, and the sunniest city north of the 49th, Winnipeg, Triniman blogs a bit when he's not swatting mosquitoes, shoveling snow or golfing.
  • paula bied

    Nice review but Dee Murray died in 1992. The other orginal member on stage was the drummer Nigel Olsen.

  • Right you are, Paula! Sorry for the error.

  • Paula beat me to it. Elton’s drummer is the one and only Nigel Olsson…and that’s Bob Birch on bass guitar.

    R.I.P. Dee Murray…we love you!

  • Correction made (and it was actually not the writers error, but rather the editors…sorry about that Triniman, but at least we got the guitarist right).


  • Joachim Tong from Singapore

    Yes, I miss you, Dee Murray !

    you looked great in many of EJ’s 1980s concerts.

    However, will EJ play “Friends”, “Too low for Zero”, “Gypsy Heart”, “Belgium”, “Heartache all over the world”, Slow Rivers”, “Satorial Eloquence” ? We miss these !!!!! EJ never played them for eons !!!

    Joachim Tong from Singapore
    26 Sep 2008

  • drew

    Am so happy that elton didn’t have an opening act. He doesn’t need one and the more of elton time the better. I hope he continues that all the way through this tour.

  • I agree with you, Drew. A person of his stature doesn’t need an opening act. Mind you, Neil Young is touring and he has two opening acts. I guess Neil doesn’t want to play for more than 90 minutes?

  • I agree with you, Drew. A person of his stature doesn’t need an opening act. Mind you, Neil Young is touring and he has two opening acts. I guess Neil doesn’t want to play for more than 90 minutes?