Saturday, November 9, 2013

The "Rocket Man" Flies High at Bridgeport's Harbor Yard Arena

We knew it going to be a special evening at Bridgeport’s Harbor Yard Arena (aka Webster Bank Arena) last night when Elton John’s cello players (who tour & record on their own as 2Cellos) started the show by powering through covers of “Smooth Criminal” & “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” That got the crowd warmed up for what turned out to be an incredible show. It was the opening night on Elton’s tour to support his current release, The Diving Board. But this wasn’t just about selling copies of the new album, or a perfunctory run through of “greatest hits.” Elton and his band roared through an energetic, passionate two & a half hour set that touched on music from throughout his long career, hitting several emotional touchstones for his fans throughout the night.

Opening with a powerful version of the classic “Funeral for a Friend\Love Lies Bleeding,” we were treated to a set packed with classics, which included such iconic songs as “Levon, Philadelphia Freedom, Tiny Dancer and Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me.” But there were also a few album cuts and surprises, such as: "Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock & Roll)” and “All The Young Girls Love Alice” from 1973’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, an album which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. And how about a performance of a deep cut like "Holiday Inn" from Madman Across The Water (1971)? Elton also performed several songs from The Diving Board, including “Home Again” and  “Oceans Away.” This was a show filled with musical high points, but for this fan, two of the best numbers were “Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters,” from 1972’s Honky Chateau, and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” from 1975’s autobiographical Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy. Elton also did a solo turn at the piano, performing the title cut of his 1992 album, The One.

Elton performing live on a previous tour
Elton & his band were in fine form, rocking out and encouraging the audience to have a good time. It was clear from their enthusiastic performances that they were having as much fun as we were. Though he referred a few times to almost losing his voice, Elton sounded great, and had an incredible amount of energy. It was wonderful to see longtime sidemen Davey Johnstone (guitar) & Nigel Olsson (drums) looking happy to still be jamming with him after all these years. The entire band was wonderful, including an amazing quartet of backup singers: Tata Vega, Jean Witherspoon, Lisa Stone & her mom Rose Stone, who was a founding member of Sly & The Family Stone. Also on board for the show were Matt Bissonette on bass, Kim Bullard on keyboards and John Mahon on percussion.

There’s no doubt that Elton is a master showman, and he knows how to put on a great concert; not only was the music stellar, but the lighting effects & production were fantastic during the show as well. Elton mentioned that he keeps doing what he’s doing because of his love of the music & performing, and the support of his fans. In fact, before he began the encore, he walked along the front of the stage and actually signed items for people for a few minutes. You don't see many people at Elton's level of fame doing that at a show. To say he had the audience in the palm of his hand might be understating things. As a fan from way back (yes I owned his albums on vinyl), I’m a little biased on the subject, but of the three times I’ve seen Elton, this amazing night in the Park City may have been the best yet. I was moved, I was transported (lots of memories brought back during the show), I was rocked & rolled, I was energized, and I was thoroughly entertained. Thanks for a great night, Sir Elton.

Set List:
Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Bennie & The Jets
Candle In The Wind
Grey Seal
Tiny Dancer
Holiday Inn
Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters
Philadelphia Freedom
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Rocket Man
Hey Ahab
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
The One
Oceans Away
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Sad Songs Say So Much
All The Young Girls Love Alice
Home Again
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
I’m Still Standing
The Bitch Is Back
Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock & Roll)
Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting
Your Song
Crocodile Rock

Here are links to Elton performing “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”: & "Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters," "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" and “opening act” 2Cellos covering “Smooth Criminal”:

Next time: John Fogerty rocks The Oakdale Theatre

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