Ages ago when I was a fledgling college student at the University of Florida, he planned a concert on campus-- mere steps from my dorm room. Not one to miss an opportunity like that, I starved for 2 weeks and bought a ticket with the money I saved on food. On the day of the show, as I merrily walked to the venue, I got a call from a gal pal informing me that he postponed the show. Days later, he outright cancelled. Angered and betrayed, I boycotted his music for a whole year.
But that was then and this is now.
On the night of March 9th we put our differences aside as Elton did a 29-song set of his biggest and best. Wearing red specs and clad in his trademark sequined suit, he rocked the hell out of the BankAtlantic center for nearly 3 hours.
Admittedly, the music was a mixed bag of good-old, bad-new, and oddly-obscure tunes.
Elton started off with a bang by playing an electrifying rendition of “Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting”. He followed that up with fan-favorite “Bennie and the Jets”. Personally typing, I’ve never cared for that song but who am I to deny the masses their opium? A pattern emerged when he then did the relatively unknown “Grey Seal”. Turns out, Elton is celebrating the 40th anniversary of his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album. And while that’s a terrific album with songs like “Candle in the Wind” and the title track, many of the songs he did were not popular enough to get the crowd going. I could’ve done without “All the Young Girls Love Alice” and “Harmony”.
We eventually left the Yellow Brick Road with “Levon”. He changed the song to resemble something from a Baptist-style revival that was epically terrific. After a couple of sleeper songs, Elton did “Tiny Dancer” and “Philadelphia Freedom”, which happen to be two of favorites. The latter always brings back sweet memories of my high school English teacher, Mrs. Rackard, dancing in her chair.
Unfortunately, the show hit a wall then when Elton went back to the Yellow Brick Road and then to songs from his last album with Leon Russell. Not that song’s entitled “Funeral for a Friend” or songs about the Civil War aren’t a hoot (read: sarcasm). But they sure as heck zapped the energy from the palatial arena.
Mercifully, my all-time favorite Elton song quickly followed. As he started to play the first few notes of “Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, I started to ugly-cry. That song transports me to some of the saddest, sweetest feelings I can tap into. How could you not with lyrics like ♫ Don't discard me just because you think I mean you harm / But these cuts I have they need love to help them heal… ?
Anyway, looking back on it I now understand why Elton lulled the audience into a sad stupor. It was so he could jolt us back to life with a string of songs that kept us up and dancing ‘til the very end! First he did a version of "I'm Still Standing" that would've made young Elton very proud. Then he got the geriatric audience bumping and grinding with "The Bitch is Back" and "Crocodile Rock".
After coming out for an encore to a thunderous ovation, Elton said, "I wouldn't be sitting here at this time in my life if it weren't for this song," and then played "Your Song". That song (as if the others hadn't already convinced us) proved that Elton John still has it. That "it" is a combination of talent and bravado that transcend time and place.