Review: Elton John rocks the Blaisdell
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
Tom Moffatt has brought Elton John to Hawaii so many times in the last 40 years that appraising an Elton John concert is a simple matter for reviewers and fans alike. There are two basic questions. How long did he perform? How many of the classics did he do?
Allowing for — at most — a two-minute break between the final song of the set and the obligatory encore, Sir Elton was on stage and performing nonstop for two and a half hours. As for hits in the set list, he skipped “Island Girl,” a chart-topping RIAA-certified platinum single from 1975, but fans from the early days were rewarded with a beautiful arrangement of “Take Me to the Pilot” that showcased his skills as a pianist in ways that few songs of the evening did.
All the big hits from the ‘70s were there — including “Your Song,” which was originally released as the “B-side” of “Take Me to the Pilot” but eventually eclipsed it on the American pop charts.
Indeed, with the exception of “Island Girl,” last night’s show included the hits he omitted when he played the arena with percussionist Ray Cooper two years ago — “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” “Candle in the Wind” and “The Bitch is Back.”
Honolulu loved that last one!
There were also three songs from “The Union,” his current album with Leon Russell.
Sir Elton can play arena shows solo, and his concerts here in 2010 with Cooper provided fresh perspectives on timeless hits, but for old time’s sake, nothing beats seeing him with Nigel Olssen on drums and Davey Johnstone on guitar. Olssen was as solid as always. Johnston’s acoustic guitar work on “Daniel” was one of the instrumental highlights of the show.
As in 2010, the audio mix was problematic — at least in the risers, and particularly for the first part of the show. The electric instruments tended to be louder than the piano or Sir Elton’s vocals, and generally louder than they needed to be. “Madman Across The Water,” another early rarity, was an exception — it started off at a relatively low volume and allowed his voice to be heard and the lyrics to be understood. (The balance between the volume of the band’s instruments on one hand, and Sir Elton’s piano and voice on the other, improved as the show continued).
The extended concert arrangement of “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time),” featuring what was, in essence, a piano solo, was another time his talent as a pianist could be fully appreciated.
The audience was there to party. They sang the chorus of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and the “la-la-las” of “Crocodile Rock.” Many fans spent much of the show recording it on their cell phones or other hand-held electronic devices. Several got irate when they were told that they could not dance in the aisles.
Fans with tickets for tonight’s second, sold-out show can count themselves doubly blessed if they bought tickets in section CC or riser sections G and F. Sir Elton’s piano bench is that side of the stage. Everybody in the arena can see his head and shoulders throughout the evening, but he directs most of his performance — mugging, posing for pictures — to that part of the audience.
A tip to fans seated elsewhere who are hoping for a photo op: Sir Elton walked across the stage to the far side — stage left, audience right — after “Rocket Man,” and crossed the stage again at the end of the show.
And, as in 2010, he spent almost two minutes last night signing autographs when he returned for the encore. There aren’t a lot of artists who do that these days.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for nearly 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.