Sunday, June 11, 2017

Early Elton Resurrects A "Madman"

Early Elton, the brilliant band who pay tribute to the music Elton John performed on tour with Nigel Olsson and Dee Murray during 1970-72, returned to the Fairfield Theatre Company’s Stage One on June 8. I’ve been attending their shows for several years now, and this group never fails to knock my socks off with their incredible live shows. The last time I wrote a review of the band, I mentioned I was running out of superlatives to describe just how good they are. Well, these guys just keep getting better every time I see them, so I’ll try to think of a few new ones. Friday night’s show was nothing short of spectacular. I'd expect nothing less from these superb musicians.

Early Elton - photo by John V
The first set featured Elton’s 1971 album Madman Across The Water in its entirety. Madman is an intricate, masterfully produced album with amazing and powerful songs, including “Levon” and the classic title track. But some of the songs on that disc have a massive sound, which includes choirs and orchestra. How do you scale that down for Early Elton’s trio setup? You do what this phenomenal band does for all of their performances: carefully research by listening to live recordings, demos and bootlegs to get a feel for how Elton, Nigel and Dee made these tunes work in a live trio setting. Allowing for some terrific solos to showcase this group’s stellar musicianship, these songs sound exactly as they would if you’d gone to see Elton during those trio shows in his early days.

The Madman Across The Water set was incredible. Of course, the band knocked it out of the park with “Tiny Dancer” and “Levon,” songs they perform regularly. But I really dug the fantastic versions of deeper cuts like “Razor Face” and “All The Nasties.” Their rendering of “Indian Sunset,” one of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s most evocative songs, was nothing short of magnificent. The marvelous Jeff Kazee on piano and vocals, the tremendous John Conte on bass and vocals, and the awe-inspiring Rich Pagano on drums and vocals, dazzled us on every song. This was a remarkable performance of the Madman album, and if the show had ended right there, we could have all gone home happy. But there was another memorable set of music to come.

The second half of the night kicked off with a rocking “Take Me To The Pilot” and included a stunning take on “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” from Honky Chateau. The set also featured breathtaking performances of several cuts from Tumbleweed Connection, my personal favorite of Elton’s albums. These songs are always a highlight of Early Elton’s shows, and on this night, the tremendous versions of “Son Of Your Father” and “My Father’s Gun” were no exception. The evening wrapped up with an audience sing along on the classic “Your Song” and the encore: a mind-blowing, bring the house down “Burn Down The Mission.” Early Elton rocksKazee’s terrific keyboards, Pagano’s powerful drumming and Conte’s intense bass, combine with their emotional vocals for an unforgettable night of music. The band is doing more shows this summer, so get out there and catch them live! If you’re a fan of this period of Elton’s music, they are a must see. For more info, you can go to their site at http://www.earlyeltontrio.com, or visit their Facebook page.


John Conte & Rich Pagano - photo by John V
Early Elton Set List - 6/9/17
Set 1 - Madman Across The Water
Tiny Dancer
Levon
Razor Face
Madman Across The Water
Indian Sunset
Holiday Inn
Rotten Peaches
All The Nasties
Goodbye


Jeff Kazee - photo by Gilda Caserta
Set 2 - Fan Favorites
Take Me To The Pilot
Rocket Man
Country Comfort
Son of Your Father
My Father’s Gun
Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters
Border Song
Grey Seal
Your Song
Encore:
Burn Down The Mission



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