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Elton John
A Concert Review

August 28, 1998

The New World
Music Theatre

Tinley Park, IL

A Review and Photos by
The Dude on the Right
Sometimes I wish I could just write a review like "Elton John's show was awesome. I have never seen him before, and I guess I missed him in his more 'flamboyant' era, but he played my favorite song, "Levon." If you have a favorite Elton John song, he probably played that too. Go see him."

As I sat trying to figure out something more substantial to write, I reflected a little to my college days when I could get away with a review like that. But I needed to get inspired, other than just seeing a way-cool show, and flipped through my album collection. I thought I had a larger repertoire of Elton albums, but it turns out that all I have is "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Elton John Greatest Hits," "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy," and "Elton John Live in Australia." Sure, I've got a few things on CD, but sometimes there is nothing like the "snap" and "crackle" of a turntable or having to get up every now and then to bump the record player to get past that skipping, to toss in some inspiration. I don't know if the inspiration is good, but let's get reviewing.

It was a muggy, late-summer evening, where an afternoon rain-shower brought the mosquitoes out in full force, as I made my way to The New World Music Theatre to see Elton John. I was walking from my car and I noticed something kinda strange - they were letting people in the venue with coolers, umbrellas, and lawn chairs. Yes, for The World, that is kinda strange. Oh well. But that was just the start of strange things happening at this show. The next thing, as I made my way to the photo pit, was the lack of one. The photo pit area was gone. See, usually there is this nice barricaded area at the front of the stage for photographers, but not today. "Hmm," I thought, "Elton is letting the fans not be separated by barriers in front of the stage. That's cool." So I'm taking my photos and the fans begin to test security to see if they will actually be allowed to come to the front of the stage. And security lets them. These things all started to amaze me and I wasn't concentrating on Elton yet. Oh well, the photo taking was done and it was time to find my seat and really begin to enjoy the show.

And enjoy it I did.

Elton John is out touring in support of his latest, like one billionth album, "The Big Picture." Alright, maybe not his billionth, but for the past 30 years it's really difficult to find a time frame when Elton wasn't making something.
His show this night was both about a couple of songs from "The Big Picture," like "Something About the Way You Look Tonight" and "Recover Your Soul," but also a trip through those thirty years that most of the crowd has grown up hearing. But, you know what, the show wasn't like some bad nostalgia trip, it wasn't like "Hey, here's another one of my songs, hope you like it." No, for three hours Elton John still treated the crowd to the energy and voice he has been famous for. He led sing-a-longs during "Honky Cat" and The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds;" he would trade jams with his guitarists, John Jorgenson and Davey Johnstone; he was left alone, just Elton and his piano, for a great version of "Your Song," where, I'm sorry, I must digress a tad from this review and say that people with laser pointers who shine them at the stage or video screens during a solo version of "Your Song" should be dragged from the venue by their hair, but back to the review - he smiled, he posed, he told stories, and he was just about one of the most crowd-loving performers I have ever seen on a stage.

"What do you mean 'crowd-loving'? He's sitting in front of his piano the whole time," you might be wondering. Well, for the first half of the show the order of business would go like this: A - Elton blasts through a song. B - The song ends and the crowd rises to their feet in ovation. C - Elton gets up from his piano stool, says "Thank you," and proceeds to walk along the front of the stage taking the multitude of flowers and little gifts being offered to him, and still finding time to sign an autograph or two while the crowd is still applauding. D - Elton makes his way back to his piano and takes a sip of Diet Coke. E - The next song starts and the crowd sits back down. Return to letter "A." A little redundant for the people in the lawn, yea, well maybe, but for the people who crowded the front of the stage it was a dream come true, and for me, it put Elton a notch ahead of some of the other great singers I have seen because he still shows that he knows he can put out some of the best music in the world, but no one will hear it if his fans don't support him, so he makes sure he gives a little bit back.

Elton John and his way talented band put on a professional show, but what would you expect? Twenty-sevenish songs, almost three hours of playing his fingers off, and Elton can still be flamboyant when he want to be. He is a man who has been honing his talents for thirty years now, and knows when to grin, when to be somewhat serious, and how to play the shit out of a piano. And he knows how to make a concert your concert. You sing along to the songs, you dance to "Crocodile Rock," you put up with a drunk seat-jumper who smokes and finds a temporary spot next to you before he yells "Bravo" and tries to get a little closer to the stage, you wait hoping to hear one of your favorite songs, you hear your favorite song and it is just a little bit better because hey, you're seeing Elton sing it live, and you just have a great time.

Such was my experience, I had a great time.

And as I'm wrapping up this review my "Greatest Hits" album hits a skip, I get up and bump the turntable a bit, and flip through my Elton albums and CD's and realize one more strange thing - that even though "Levon" is my favorite song I don't have a recording of it. How does that happen? Oh well, add that to the "get at the CD store" list.



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