Arriving onstage to the strains of the most ridiculous, bombastic introduction music since Julie Andrews twirled around on a mountain top, Queen Elton bows taking his applause before turning to show off his jacket, a bedazzled affair depicting young Elt climbing out of the jaws of a crocodile, as entrances go it’s hardly subtle, he might as well have lowered a flashing neon sign onto the stage that read “fuck off I’m Elton John’ but we wouldn’t have him any other way.
Sadly this delightful camp frippery dissolves as soon as the knuckles are cracked and the first chords ring out around the packed stadium. As it is Elton alone with his piano onstage it’s a muted beginning offering up a selection of songs from his Elton John album then a stark, effecting tribute to early AIDS sufferers ‘The Boy in the Red Shoes’ before launching into a scorching rendition of new track ‘When Love is Dying’, his voice cracking with emotion in the darkness, it’s hardly a festive affair. The idea of him breaking into ‘Step into Christmas’ is but a foreign memory by song two.
Yes, Elton is a serious artist with over three decades of superb work and has survived many a tumultuous time and as an artist he is obviously allowed to indulge in this side on occasion, he is no-one’s performing monkey but he is also, let’s not forget, the man that understands the joy of pop. He is a man that created possibly the best break up song since ‘I Will Survive’ with ‘I’m Still Standing’ the man with the ludicrous stage shows that has inspired a myriad of artists to delight in their creative whims, most noticeably Lady Gaga, he was the man that wore a Donald Duck suit onstage. Complaining about The X Factor and its preening karaoke kids this year solidified his image as a sour pop culture commentator that is becoming sadly out of touch.
The best way for Elton to debunk this theory would perhaps not be by playing a po-faced ten minute opus about the American Civil War. It would be to create a fantastic unifying pop song that would expose the preening painters and decorators for the sham artists they are. The cross sections of ages in the audience are proof that he still has the capacity to do just that. When he does eventually acknowledge the audience with an ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues’/ ‘Rocket Man’ double whammy there is a bizarrely subdued response. Perhaps the audiences taking their cues from the artist were apprehensive to show their appreciation for ‘the hits‘. Compared to the rabid, devoted insanity of your average Macca audience Elton’s fans are an odd bunch. You’d find more atmosphere in A&E on a Friday night.
When the beginnings of a sing-along to ’Nikita’ breaks out necks whip round as if someone has shat in their seat. It’s like an arena full of prune mouthed Frames fans, bar a pocket full of dedicated guys in the front row who leap to attention every time Elton shuffled in his seat; fun was unfortunately not high on the agenda. This is a shame, as when he launches into a blistering finale of ‘Bennie And The Jets’ under a montage of pop art visuals from throughout his career and some audience members rush to their feet it feels as triumphant and intoxicating as it should have been. Unfortunately it’s too little excitement too late.
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