Monday, August 12, 2013

Early Elton Rocks The FTC's Stage One

It’s a great pleasure to see talented musicians play music they are passionate about. Their enthusiasm is infectious, especially if you’re also a fan of the music they’re showcasing. Such is the case with Early Elton, a trio of gifted rockers who played at Connecticut’s Fairfield Theatre Company on Friday, August 9. Jeff Kazee (keyboards, vocals), John Conte (bass, vocals) and Rich Pagano (drums, vocals) are veterans of bands such as Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes and The Fab Faux. Their love of Elton’s early music (circa 1970-72) brought them together to do concerts in the style of EJ's live gigs from that era. Back in those days, the record label couldn’t afford to send out a full band so Elton toured as a trio, with bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson. This setup forced Elton to create unique arrangements of his music, which resulted in some powerful, well-remembered shows. 

The members of Early Elton have studied videos, demos, sound board recordings & bootlegs of these tours. Their homework has resulted in thrilling performances of songs from the time of Elton’s initial success in the US, “before the Donald Duck suit, the binge spending and the drugs,” as Kazee joked during the show. Opening with a rowdy version of  “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun” the band treated us to almost two hours of classic Elton. The guys all traded vocals on classic songs like “Take Me To The Pilot,” “Levon,” “Friends” and even the deeper cut "No Shoe Strings on Louise," from Elton's eponymous 1970 disc. There was also music from 11-17-70Honky Chateau and Madman Across The Water. But if you're a fan of the album Tumbleweed Connection, this was your night, as no less than 8 songs from that LP were performed, including the classics “Amoreena,” “Country Comfort” and a fantastic, full tilt boogie version of  “Son Of Your Father.”

Kazee’s amazing keyboards, Pagano’s powerful drumming and Conte’s intense bass, matched with their soulful, emotional vocals (all three sang and often traded verses) made for a superb show. I’m a fan of this music from way back, and it felt like I was experiencing these wonderful songs for the first time. The group is faithful to the original versions, but they also bring some of their own interpretations & style to the material. A couple of favorites for me in a show filled with them; "Son Of Your Father," "Levon," "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," an amazing version of “Madman Across The Water” and the kick out the jams show closer, "Burn Down The Mission." Early Elton has been together about two years and are continuing to tour between their other projects. I look forward to seeing them again soon. This isn’t just a “tribute” band; it’s three top-flight musicians with amazing chops playing music they love by an artist they respect. I highly recommend seeing one of their concerts, especially in an intimate venue like the FTC. 

Here are links to some highlights of the groups live shows:, and a full version of Amoreena;

Photos By John V

And here’s the set list from the show:
1st Set:
Ballad of A Well-Known Gun
Take Me To The Pilot
Mona Lisa & Mad Hatters
Country Comfort
Son Of Your Father
My Father’s Gun
Madman Across The Water

2nd Set:
Where To Now, St Peter?
Bad Side Of the Moon
Border Song
No Shoe Strings On Louise
Love Song
Tiny Dancer
Burn Down The Mission
Encore: Grey Seal

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