Elton John Show Review
Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
Fort Wayne, IN
April 21, 2012
For some unknown reason there has been a paucity of Elton John love on LxL, and after seeing him live and rediscovering just a small part of his immense catalogue, I aim to correct that. Not only is Sir Elton one of the greatest songwriters and performers of all time, he is also exceptionally versatile as a musician. This versatility shone through in his live performance, where the eccentric and sometimes over-the-top John was able to strip down his show to just him and a piano.
A solo tour is most bold for an artist who can’t pull off most of his older material vocally anymore. An accompanying band would certainly have distracted the audience from Elton’s deepened and more rustic voice. Fortunately, Elton is completely self-aware of the limitations his aging voice has put on his performances. Lowering some of his songs several keys to where he could slide his voice in gracefully next to the accompanying piano was common, as was altering the delivery of some choice lyrics. This was the sign of a musician mature beyond his years, playing into what he was dealt instead of stubbornly trying to turn back the hands of time.
So no, Elton John’s voice does not defy time like the voices of Neil Young or Tom Petty, but Elton had a lot more vocal talent for time to deprive him of to begin with. Likewise, Elton has not turned into a crowing hack like Bob Dylan and David Crosby either. Instead, he has turned songs like “Sixty Years On” and “Levon” into slightly worn but just as trustworthy old friends. Besides maybe Uncle Neil, I don’t know that I have ever seen an aging artist emote so much sincerity through the performance of 40+ year old songs. The difference between Elton and Young being that while Young’s sincerity is somewhat caustic, Elton’s is immeasurably warm and endearing.
Elton just has what I like to call that “give a shit” factor that is off the charts. He doesn’t have to work another day in his life, but there is no doubt that he loves his fans and deeply wants to put on the best possible show he can. Fort Wayne is not the sexiest place to perform, but Elton played for about three hours with no intermission, and never once seemed to be laboring to find motivation.
My main complaint with the show is that the backdrop was unnecessary altogether. Filled mostly with cheap, cheesy animations (such as balloons with bow ties floating around) that were more distracting than anything. Why not just let it be Elton and a piano and a spotlight? I don’t think anyone would have complained if there was zero lighting effects outside of a spotlight. The second, very mild complaint, is purely nostalgia-based. It was just hard to get past the performance of “Tiny Dancer”, probably 50% of the crowd’s favorite Elton song. It wasn’t bad per se, but is just a song that demands Elton’s younger voice to reach its full effect.
Who knows when Elton John is going to tour again or how much longer he will have the energy he currently possesses, so I am thrilled I had this opportunity to catch him while he is still brilliant. I recommend that anyone with a similar opportunity catch this amazing artist, and amazing man, while there is still a chance.
Here is the setlist for anyone who is interested.
Can’t Miss Live: “The Ballad of the Boy in the Red Shoes”, “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues”, “Philadelphia Freedom”, “Sixty Years On”
Can’t Hit Live: “Tiny Dancer