The Tour Epitomizes Musical Staying Power
Sir Elton John stepped on stage to an exuberant sold-out crowd at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center. The ear-shattering decibel level was so intense, you would have thought it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals and the Sacramento Kings had just put a medieval beat down on the Golden State Warriors, but I digress. British royalty was on full display and featured a blinged out blazer that out-blinged, the blingy-est of the blingers.
He opened by teasing the crowd with a quick and fierce bang on the piano which the crowd recognized immediately as the opening chord of “Bennie and The Jets.” From that point and for almost two hours, it was on and cracking as he delivered one gem after another.
Everyone has their favorite Elton John song given his thirty albums, not including his many soundtracks or collaboration albums. If you don’t have a favorite Elton John song, you should consider therapy. With so many hits to choose from, someone was bound to be disappointed that their song was not sung during the show. He tried hard to please as many of his fans as possible and apologized in advance if he didn’t sing everyone’s favorite.
He gave us his all on twenty-four songs, including “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Rocket Man,” “Daniel,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” and “Levon.” I had planned to keep track of the entire set list but got distracted a few times singing along or waving my phone in the air with its light on. A sense of warm and fuzzy nostalgia tingled my skin when he sang “The Bitch is Back.” At the risk of dating myself, I’ll admit that in 1974, when the song was released, and I was horrible at understanding lyrics, I was furious with Sir Elton until I realized he was saying “back” and not “black.”
The show was devoid of fluff or over the top fanfare unless you count the costume change into a fabulous black tuxedo jacket covered with pink peonies and orchids. He interspersed the performances with a few short vignettes on his life or the song’s origin. The stories were just enough not to bore the audience. The moments reminded me of what I imagine sitting around a beat up upright piano as Crazy Uncle Joe does his thing must feel like.
There was an enormous video screen at the back of the stage that cycled through beautifully filmed cinematic images of humanity and life. No gimmicks or elaborate stagecraft are necessary when you have a lifetime’s repertoire of ballads that everyone can relate to.
I enjoy a hot trap beat just as much as anyone. However, today’s performers should take time to appreciate the staying power of music Bernie Taupin and Elton John began creating together in 1967. It was touching to see Golden 1 Arena packed with fans that ran the gamut from grandpas with walking canes to fly girls in thigh high boots — all there to see Elton; no opening act necessary.
I seriously doubt that 30 years from now, in year 2049, anyone will be as excited as we were to pay to see a 71-year-old singing about “face,” “truffle butter,” or “flexing.” Assuming anyone even knows what the alternative meanings of those words are by then, the songs just won’t wear as well as the lyrics to “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”
If the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour winds its well-traveled path through your city, I strongly recommend you do whatever it takes to give it a stroll. Pure artistry is always well worth the cost of admission and Elton John’s mastery on display is a must see.