It was supposed to rain, yet Mother Nature smiled on the Fans of Sir Elton John. The weather was perfect. He came on stage wearing a black tailcoat with a leopard motif. The arms of the leopard went the length of the sleeves and the haunches and tail of that pink and orange beast played down the back of the jacket. The leopard print was matched down the outer seam of his black trousers. The ensemble was completed with a bright orange shirt, the ever present cross necklace and red orange glasses and black shoes.
He began with the first tracks from Peachtree Road, describing each song. You could tell that they were special to him by the attention he placed on each description. He did mention that Turn the Lights out When You Leave was to be the next single released in America, I believe in May. The crowd was appreciative, but not as familiar with the newer material…the fans who had the CD were singing along and loving every minute of it….myself included. The rest simply listened.
When the first solitary note of Bennie echoed thru the arena, the crowd went berzerk. Everybody in the sold out 2800+ seat arena was on their feet and screaming. The ovation lasted nearly thru the entire opening of the song. He did extended and rather bluesy piano grooves while the screen provided a backdrop display of multicolored circles and elipses. The crowd was eating it up, clapping and swaying.
By the time he got to Take Me to the Pilot, the fans were starting to sway and dance in the space between the first rows and the stage. He then began Rocket Man while the screen displayed a lone planet with whisps of atmosphere radiating off into the vastness of space. He played to the crowd and was rewarded with a wave of fresh enthusiasm. While he played solo between the verses, his face took on a look of deep contemplation. He bowed his head close to the keys and reaching deep inside played a melodic blend of jazzy and bluesy notes letting his inner passion drive his fingers across the keys. After the last note echoed across the arena, he leapt from the stool and began a wave of high fives and handclasps with the lucky front rowers that went on for several minutes.
As he played Tiny Dancer, the screen behind had purple sparkles glittering across it. As the night continued, it would illuminate in sparkles of aqua, purple, yellow, fuschia and white. When he was introducing Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, he told the crowd of his final song with Ray Charles, his frailty, and his honor at being able to sing with such a legend. When the song was done, he briefly exited the stage and darkness descended…
When Guy Babylon twinkled the first few dirgelike notes of fan favorite Funeral for a Friend, the crowd roared and the stage was awash suddenly in red light. When Elton hit the opening piano notes, the spotlight shone white in the red glow singling him out in glorious splendor. As the number progressed, the red lights gave way to blue as the screen displayed a blending of Eltons hands flying across the 88’s and Davey’s fingers working those strings for all they could give!
As the song erupted into the notes of Love Lies Bleeding, you could almost feel the fire and energy pouring off the stage. Bob Birch took his bass guitar over to the piano joining Elton at the stool for a time before trotting up to Nigel pounding the skins and cymbals as they played in tandem to Davey’s guitar licks. The number is clearly a favorite of Davey as he was playing full tilt, his head thrown back and his guitar wailing out notes from the bottom of his soul, his long blond hair blowing about his face.
Elton then introduced the Choir that had returned to the stage giving full due to each before introducing the band. The first to be introduced was Ohio’s own John Mahon on percussion wearing a white untucked shirt and jeans. Next came Baltimore’s Guy Babylon on keyboards. He wore a black button up shirt and dark jeans. Then Detroit native Bob Birch on Bass Guitar in black shirt, coat and pants. Elton then introduced an original member of the band, formerly from England, but now at home in LA, our beloved Nigel Olsson resplendent in an orange Yamamoto shirt in patterns and black slacks. And last but far from least came the other present day LA resident, Scotlands own Davey Johnstone in black shirt and faded, patched bellbottom jeans and tan boots.
When the notes of Philly Freedom sounded, the screen shone with red and blue sparkles that gave way to a waving flag. The addition of the choir made the song soulful and uplifting. The screen switched to a spriped red and white background with falling, twirling white stars as the rafters echoed with ‘I LOOOOOVE YOU….YES I DO!’ Elton joyously waggled his pointing finger at the crowd and grinning from ear to ear. He then rewarded the crowd’s enthusiasm with another round of high fives.
He then returned to the bench beginning a soulful twinkling that gave way to the familiar notes of Sad Songs. As he sang and the choir chimed in in joyous counterpoint harmony, the screen displayed his masterful hands playfuly dancing in boogie woogie across the ivories. After a brief moment to catch his breath the notes of Levon filled the air as the screen presented a dazzling display of balloons drifting in bunches asross the aqua sparkles…when the balloons had drifted away, it swirled in orange and red tye dye spirals only to again return to the balloons.
Elton was in fine form pounding the living daylights out of those poor ivories till there should have been flames in the wake of his flying fingers. Toward the end of the song he rose off the stool crouching over the keys and pounded them till the arena thundered with the notes, followed by thunderous applause from a fully standing capacity crowd. He then leapt from in front of the keys and walked to the side grasping the lid of the piano, lifted it and dropped it in 2 quick thuds to emphasize his exuberance all the while grinning like the cat that ate the proverbial canary. The crowd responded with a mad stamping of feet.
The crowd didn’t settle down till the opening notes of Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me, and the screen displayed a delicate orange sunset. That was followed by a rousing I’m Still Standing. When the guitar licks for The B*tch is Back sounded out the crowd lost all restraints and the front rowers began to dance and pump fists in the space between the seats and the stage. He was so full of fire and energy he let loose a parallel to the keyboard handstand much to the delight of the fans. When the last note was heard he walked the length of the stage signing autographs for the first time in Houston since my first show in the early 80’s….and I’ve not missed one. Afterward he left the stage and the Totota center shook with the stamping and applause.
We were rewarded with a return of our hero and he roared thru Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, and we responded in kind, as it was indeed a magnificent saturday night in the Rocket City. He again left the stage and soon returned in a black Adidas tracksuit with yellow stripes and dark tennies. He thanked us for a wonderful reception and said God bless Texas as the crowd roared it’s approval. He then dedicated Your Song to the crowd and settled down to sing his final encore to cap off a memorable two and a half hour set in his first show in the new Toyota Center. He left the stage and the screaming stamping crowd poured into the starry night still flying with adulation on a near full moon night. The only marr on the whole night was the venue forbidding cameras and confiscating all flowers before letting anyone enter the glass doors. But in defiance someone did sneak in a single rose wich graced the top of Elton’s Yamaha for most of the night.
Weight of the World
Porch Swing in Tupelo
Answer in the Sky
Turn the Lights out When You Leave
My Elusive Drug
They Call Her the Cat
Freaks in Love
All That I’m Allowed
Bennie and the Jets
Take Me to the Pilot
I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues
Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word
Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Don’t Let the Sun go Down on Me
I’m Still Standing
The B*tch is Back
Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting