The “Madman” Made Me Move (An Elton John Review)
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some really top notch performers over the years, but this past Saturday was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I was lucky enough to go see Elton John in Orlando this past weekend and wow what a show. This tour that he’s doing is named “All the Hits” and Saturday’s show certainly had every hit from “Candle in the Wind”, to “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues”, as well as a few surprises. It was those jems that weren’t very popular that made the show for me.
He started the show with “Funeral For A Friend” off of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and then followed thaqt up with an amazing version of “Bennie and the Jets”. This transition was rather interesting to me because “Funeral For a Friend” and “Candle in the Wind” have always gone together, and rightfully so, asince they both deal with death. To see them seperated was interesting, and kept me interested. In fact this placement and the way he handled many of the songs was really interesting. For instance his performnce of “Bennie and the Jets” was absolutely incredible. He jammed the hell out of it, but the more interesting aspect, was that he rephrased from the original version. The notes, temp, and melody were all the same, but the phrasing was different. I’m sure he did this so it would suit his voice, but I found it to be really cool and saw it as a new version of the song. “Bennie and the Jets” was one of my top favorites of the night. One of my other favorites came shortly after when he pulled out “All the Young Girls Love Alice”. This is one of my favorite songs off of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and it was quite a surprise to hear him pull it out.
So the first four songs were from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which he mentioned celebrated its fourtieth year last year. From there he moved to doing a few things off of Madman Across the Water. There wasn’t a ton of surprises when he did these songs, but I was real excited to hear his string section do the chorus on “Levon”. Having the strings gave many of the songs their true sound because much of John’s material has orchestration on it, so it was nice of him to bring it on the road. His string section was also in full effect when he pulled out “Philadelpkia Freedo
As he got further into the show the surprises kept coming. He pulled off “Hey Ahab” off The Union, which is an album he did with his hero Leon Russell. It was really great ot hear him do something off of this album because the album is such a great colaboration and probably my favorite later record. He went back into the Madman Across the Water bag and pulled out “Holiday Inn”. Although out of the oddities the biggest surprise was “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” off of Honkey Chateau. While the string section had their parts on “Levon” and “Philadelphia Freedom”, it was Davey Johnstone’s turn (John’s guitar player) to show off his mandolin skills on this tune. The fact that he played the mandolin part really gave the song its authentisity, because of how true the version was to the studio version. This wasn’t Johnstone’s only crowning achievement of the eventing. He nailed those memorable guitar licks on “All the Young Girls Love Alice” and “The Bitch is Back”. Plus his mandolin talents were showcased again on “Holiday Inn”.
The evening was full of songs with distinct instrumental solos, some came from Johnstone, while others came from percussionist John Mahon. His important solos were during “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”. Mahon was responsible for the significant harmonica solo on “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” and the tamborine on “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”. Mahon and Johnstone were really fantastic throughout the evening, but so was everyone else in the band. In fact Nigel Olsen (John’s drummer) is the only original member of The Elton John Band stil playing with John. He still has an incredible sense of rhythum.
John didn’t say much, but he did talk about writing songs. He explained that when he and Bernie Taupin write a song they are never in the same room. Besides this he explained that the first album they ever did was entitled Empty Sky and that this song (which referred to “Your Song”) was the first hit the two of them ever had. Then when it came came time for encores he stated that he never realized how much of an impact this song (which was “Circle of Life”/”Can You Feel the Love Tonight”) has had since having kids. The reason of for this of course is because his kids have probably watched The Lion King a million times and love it. He performed both of these songs solo and then brought out the band for “Crocodile Rock”. All that’s left to say is, if you ever get a chance go see this man. He hinted at retirement when talking about his children so there may only be a few more years left on the road for Sir Elton John.