An Evening With Sir Elton

Last night Kish and I went to catch the Columbus performance of Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour. The singer-songwriter has been on the road performing for 50 years, and this is said to be his last tour ever.

It’s a show that’s well worth catching. Sir Elton performs with a group that features — in addition to a piano, of course — guitar, bass, synthesizer, and no fewer than three percussion set-ups. It pumped out a huge amount of sound. In fact, the volume was a bit too cranked up for my taste, and at times you could feel the bass and drums vibrating your seat and rattling the fillings in your teeth. But the band did a great job with the playlist, and Sir Elton himself was in good voice and can still tickle the ivory with the best of them.

As we enjoyed songs like Border Song, Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer, and Someone Saved My Life Tonight, I thought about what a huge star Elton John was in the ’70s, and just how many hits he’s produced. Although he didn’t perform my favorite (Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters), the show was a powerful reminder of just how insanely talented this man is. By the time the band finished its encore with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and Sir Elton rose into the backdrop and then stepped onto the yellow brick road on the jumbo video screen to walk into the distance, you realized that he occupies a level that has been reached by very few musical performers.

The guy is a living legend. How can you pass up the chance to see him one last time?

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A Tribute To Elton

Last night we went to Lake Arrowhead Village for an outdoor concert. It was an Elton John “tribute” featuring Kenny Metcalf as Sir Elton, and it was great fun.

I’ve never seen a “tribute” band before, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. But the performers took their roles seriously– complete with a feathered outfit and sparkly glasses for Elton and rocker wigs for the other members of the band–and they gave the crowd a high-energy set that had everyone singing along to their favorites. (For me, that was Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.). And Kenny Metcalf played the piano beautifully and sounded remarkably like Elton John, too. A beautiful setting, moderate temperatures, and clear skies just made the evening more enjoyable.

I’d go see another tribute band.

From a-Ha To ZZ Top

After months of painful work, my careful reconstruction of my failed iPod is coming to an end.  I started with a-Ha, worked my way through the Beach Boys and Beatles, through Elton John and Veruca Salt and Yo-yo Ma, compiling dozens of different playlists along the way, and have finally hit Zuilli Bailey and ZZ Top.  After that end-of-the-alphabet omega point, there are some random Japanese characters and numbers — .38 Special and the 5h Dimension figure prominently, for example  — but we’re basically done with the project.

What does it all mean?  I’m not sure, except for this:  there are a ridiculous number of talented musicians out there, and an even more ridiculous number of great songs,, and I desperately want to have them all.  What surprises me in my effort is that there is so much great music that I want to have on my iPod, just in case — and also how much fun it can be trying to organize it into playlists.  My musical tastes are broad, and if someone tells me I’m going to need to choose among the Beatles, the Temptations, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, Eric Clapton, Merle Haggard, George Jones, John Coltrane, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, and countless other artists, I’m not going to be a happy camper.

Fortunately, the old iPod has sufficient storage capacity that I don’t have to make such choices.  I can winnow things down without cutting crucial things out — and that is a great luxury of the modern world.  We are lucky we live in times of such technological advances.

An Elton John Interlude

I’m not a huge Elton John fan.  I found his later, over-the-top Liberace-style phase off-putting — but I think his early work is really, really good.  Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters is one of my favorite songs from that era, with its beautiful melody and cryptic yet evocative lyrics.  Even now, I can’t walk into a subway station without singing to my inner self:  “Subway’s no way . . . for a good man to go down . . . “

Summer of ’74

I was thinking about the summer of 1974 as I drove home today, because I heard the song Rock Your Baby by George McCrae on the radio.  It was one of those songs that you seemed to hear everywhere, whether you were at the pool, or listening to the radio at home, or out on a date.  Upon reflection, the summer of ’74 was a pretty good summer.  I was working at Big Bear and therefore had some money in my pocket, all of which I gladly spent on dates with my girlfriend.  I was getting ready for my senior year at Upper Arlington High School, where I would assume the weighty responsibility of serving as co-editor of The Arlingtonian along with my friend JD.  We attended a summer journalism workshop at Ball State that summer, and they kept the TV tuned to the Watergate hearings the whole time we were there.

I seemed to spend a lot of time in my car that summer, listening to tunes.  There was some great album music on the airwaves, including Sweet Home Alabama and various selections from On The Border, Band On The Run, and Bad Company.  WCOL-FM was the classic “head” station, with extended play of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and various “album rock” artists.  On the Top 40 stations like WNCI and WCOL-AM there was lots of Elton John, Wings, and John Denver, as well as novelty songs like Blue Swede’s version of Hooked on a Feeling and arguably the worst song ever to become popular in America — Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks.

During the summer months, you didn’t watch TV because it was all reruns, but you did go to movies.  The venue of choice was the Loew’s Arlington, at the corner of Reed and Henderson, and the University City Cinema, both of which were big, standalone theatres with enormous screens and lots of seats.  That summer saw the release of first Death Wish, which was a great, chilling summer movie that raised an important, but as-yet unanswered, question — why in the world would Charles Bronson’s wife open the door to a giant bald guy in a leather jacket, and why would the producers cast the actor best known for his roles on Love American Style as the guy who gave Bronson the gun he eventually used to mow down lowlife scum when he returned to the city?  The Longest Yard also came out that summer, when Burt Reynolds was cool and Bernadette Peters made an impressive screen debut as warden Eddie Albert’s beehived, lipstick-smeared, nympho secretary.

It was a fine summer, indeed.