Sunday, 22 November 2015

Elton John in concert

"She packed my bags last night, pre-flight
Zero hour, 9 am."
Elton John, Rocket Man himself, touched down in Wellington yesterday for a rocking night at Westpac Stadium. It would be his final time touring this part of the world - or so the promoter said. The man himself may have other ideas, insisting that he will be back. After seeing Elton John in concert twice now (at the same venue), I hope he makes it a hat-trick.

I'll openly admit that I became more of an Elton John fan after seeing him perform live in Wellington in 2006. Sure, I'd played and listened to a significant chunk of his back catalogue while growing up as a pianist but had written him off as a performing peacock, strutting and preening on stage while his amazing band of tireless musicians did all the actual work. How wrong I was! From the moment those ethereal opening lines of Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding blasted out, to the instantly recognisable opening staccato piano chord of Benny and the Jetssss, I could see we were in for a huge night.

Fast forward to 2015 and much of the set list was the same. But just like a vintage wine, it sounded even more mature and enjoyable this time around. Wow, what a performance! With around 2 1/4 hours of solid piano playing and entertaining, there are too many highlights to single out. Hits, B-sides, lesser known numbers and stellar megahits rang out right through to the Crocodile Rocking encore that had the whole crowd on their feet. Also, the glow sticks and battery-operated candles that used to be for sale outside events have now given way to a sea of cell phones lighting up the stadium for Candle in the Wind. The cell phone lights also made an appearance during Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, which Elton dedicated to the late Jonah Lomu.

Elton talked about how his writing partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin is now into its 48th year. He also introduced long serving members of the Elton John band: Nigel Olsson on drums and Davey Johnstone on guitar. They've collaborating for more years than I've been alive. What an achievement!

The only fly in the ointment (apart from the cold wind - but a beanie and coat fixed that problem) was intermittent sound quality, with keyboards and bass out of balance and the top end missing during some key numbers. I crossed my fingers that it wasn't a local sound mixer on deck last night.

Will he be back? Here's hoping. Maybe then I'll finally get to hear him perform his elusive tribute to John Lennon, the legendary Empty Garden.

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