By Chuck Cox
Elton John has always been an amazing showman, an incredibly gifted piano player and a larger-than-life pop culture icon. He was all of those things in person — along with a side order of ham — in front of a packed American Airlines Center on Thursday night.
John, backed by a five-piece band, held the stage for nearly three hours while rolling through a setlist packed with hits. And even though the stage had a pretty interesting design with a cool video board, it was mostly a no-frills show.
When you’re Elton John, you can absolutely get away with letting the music do the talking. And monster songs like “Levon,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Rocket Man,” “The Bitch is Back,” “Saturday Night’s All Right For Fighting,” along with the two encores,”Your Song” and “Crocodile Rock,” had the crowd enthralled all the way.
Right before the encore, John came out to the front of the stage and gave some fans tour programs and signed autographs for a couple of minutes. He then engaged the crowd in the only real sing-a-long of the evening on “Crocodile Rock” before calling it a night.
I love each and every one of the aforementioned songs, but the hits he played from the 1980s — namely “I’m Still Standing,” “Sad Songs (Say So Much),” and “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” — are always super cool to hear live. That’s right in my wheelhouse of falling head over heels in love with music. And it really does take me back to that place and time.
When it was all said and done, it was a tremendous night of music. I’m really glad I went — especially considering I had only seen John play live once before.
Oh, yeah. The side order of ham thing? With the exception of two or three of the 29 songs he played, John immediately got up after each song and basically pandered to the crowd for applause. A couple of times he walked across the stage, too. If he had done it two or three times, that would have been one thing. But 27? Although it was comical after a while, I also thought it got to be a little silly. Regardless, a really great show from one of the all-time greats.
Until next time …