Elton John in Philadelphia Thanksgiving Eve
11/28/2013 6:35:00 PM
Elton John and his band played the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia to an enthusiastic and packed crowd as part of his “All the Hits” tour, giving the crowd their money’s worth with two and a half hours of a solid performance of songs from his vast repertoire.
The band entered a dark stage to the strains of Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, with a touch of fog for effect. Elton took his place at the Yamaha grand piano dressed in a long tuxedo jacket full of glitter over black slacks, a blue collared shirt, and a large sparkling diamond on his left ear. His trademark wild glasses were black rimmed with a touch of blue shades.
Elton John’s band includes longtime guitarist Davey Johnstone, who has logged over 2,000 concerts with Elton, and has played on most of his albums. Drummer and backing vocalist Nigel Olsson has been with Elton since the beginning.
Following the tragic death of Bob Birch, Davey invited bassist Matt Bissonette to join the band in 2012. John Mahon became a member of the band in 1997. He plays percussion and sings back-up. Keyboardist Kim Bullard has been with Elton since 2009. For more about the band members, see Elton John's website.
After perfect versions of Bennie and the Jets and Candle in the Wind, John officially greeted the crowd “Good Evening Philadelphia. You just heard a whole side of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road that’s coming out again next year. Here’s another song from that album,” he said, introducing Grey Seal.
Four female backup singers joined the band at this point for the next bunch of songs. The two cellists who opened the show (with two songs) also took part here.
Switching albums now, the set moved on to Levon from Madmen across the Water followed by Tiny Dancer. A huge chandelier comes down slowly above the stage and becomes the centerpiece of the show. Different colored lights constantly changing and blinking gave an eloquent feel to the stage.
Two large video screens hung high on either side of the stage for those in the nose-bleed section to get a closer view.
“The first time we came to America was September 1970,” John related to introduce the next number. “We always stayed in the same hotel so we decided to write a song about it, and it’s called ‘Holiday Inn.’”
Next, Elton brought up the concert for 9/11 in New York City, saying it was one of the most moving experiences of his life. “We had to think of a song to do at that concert, and we decided on Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.”
“….and I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you….”
It makes sense that Elton would mention his longtime writing partner. “I’ve been writing with Bernie Taupin for 47 years,” the legendary singer said as he launched into Believe from the 1994 album Made in England.
For Philadelphia Freedom, the song he wrote for Billy Jean King’s tennis team here, the crowd was on its feet, the lights up bright, with an American flag flowing in digital form behind the band, and the chandelier blinking red, white and blue lights opened up completely for the first time all the way down.
“That’s one song I’m really glad I wrote!” Elton proclaimed as he took some bows and smiled at the crowd.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road followed after which the lights went down and only a spotlight focused on the singer for some beautiful piano playing that segued into Rocket Man. Watch for a movie of that name to come out soon, as production has begun, telling Elton’s life story.
“….and I’m going to be high as a kite by then….” Surely, words that once played a part in his life but now after 20+ years of sobriety, not so much. The story of Elton’s recovery along with how he got involved with the AIDS crisis is all in his best-selling book Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss and the End of AIDS that happened to come out in paperback the same day as this concert (November 27, 2013).
When Elton played Union, he said “This is from the album I made with my hero Leon Russell.”
The rest of the set list went like this:
I Guess that’s why they call it the Blues
Oceans Away from his new album The Diving Board
Someone Saved my Life Tonight
Sad Songs (Say so much)
All the Young Girls Love Alice
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
The Bitch is Back
I’m still Standing
Your sister can’t twist
Saturday Night’s alright for Fightin’
All photos by Cyndy Drue ©