It was aisles wet with beer and lousy acoustics Wednesday night as we braved the weather to watch the mad antics of the Glitter King of Rock & Roll - Mister Elton John!
Actually. I was disappointed. I expected to see someone dressed up as a giant sequin demolish a Farfisa organ, be assaulted by five thousand energy-starved boppers of all sexes, and for an encoré eat his piano. All I got was two solid hours of lowdown, no holds barred Rock & Roll, which is, face it, all that Elton John is about. A Rock & Roll concert, if properly done, should be one or both of two things - moving and or musically expressive. EJ was a whole shitload of the first. He knows the audience, as well he should, and every step of the way was choreographed like a frantic pas de deux.
He pulled few stunts. which was a relief. Sure they had his name up in lights, and the set was carpeted right down to the monitor speakers and the top of the piano. And Elton was dressed in an outfit that looked like a wet suit strung with Day-Glo orange ping-pong balls. But he was there to boogie and made no bones about it.
He played the hits. He played impressive virtuoso pieces like "Funeral for a Friend" and '"Burn Down the Mission." "Take Me to the Pilot" was the catch fire point - he imbued that oldie with reggae charm and solid funk. He made the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" sparkle with new facets. "Daniel" was sweet. "Rocket Man" was solemn. "Honky Cat" (which featured Ray Cooper on a mind-boggling duck call solo) shook the shoes right off your feet. And he closed with a rock'em sock'em rave up of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," which is one of the great rockers of the '70's.
I enjoyed it all and have nothing but respect for the technical prowess of John and his boys Davey, Dee, Nigel and Ray. They are stone good musicians, one and all, and Elton sings like a wounded choirboy, wistful and raucous by turns. He's a consummate showman, playing "Your Song" for all Detroit to mellow out the crowd and then sliding into "The Bitch is Back" to leave 'em rockin'. It was a move calculated to leave the audience wanting more.
But, for some reason, I didn't want any more. It was four shades too pat - he does the same numbers in every city at every show, right down to the little riffs like throwing the piano bench off the stage or the fog machine at the start of the show. And the show doesn't build. It flows on a high level of energy, but it doesn't do any more than hit and hold that position. And it still is too incongruous for words to hear a dude dressed up like a Xmas tree singing about "going back to the plow".
Funny glasses, balding head - Elton looks like an insurance man at a Halloween party. He can't dance worth bat-shit. He had a bad cold which bottomed out his voice like a foghorn on helium. It was a strange feeling, watching this little dude who reminded me of the types who carried slide rules in holsters in high school with a shirt pocketful of pencils and no date for Saturday night all year - in short, a nerd - lay down rock and roll like a pro. Which is where Elton John is - he's in it for the money and he makes it his business to give the crowd their money's worth. In the long run, it doesn't amount to a belch in a baggie but for one night, the Stars came out and laid that boogie down.
Did you know that Elton John's real name is not Elton Toilet?