Getting Better with Age – Why Elton Rules

Originally posted  May 23, 2011

It had been a few years since I attended an arena-style rock concert, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when my wife Shannon and I went on a recent Saturday to see Elton John perform live in Winnipeg.

Well, I actually did expect it to be pretty good, as that was what I had heard about his concerts. But I figured he was getting pretty old by now and perhaps didn’t have the energy and passion he used to have. Boy was I wrong!

The reason I was expecting it to be pretty decent in the first place was because I figured he had the money to put on a great stage show – plenty of special effects, choreographed dancers, and whatever other gimmicks big name performers use these days to keep the audience’s attention – but he had none of that. There was a large video screen behind the stage, as well as two smaller ones on either side. However, what struck me almost immediately was that the stage was relatively simple in nature, and that the lights were fairly basic. It became quite evident rather quickly that the show was about great music being performed by great musicians. Any modest effects were purely icing on the cake, being very secondary to the music.

With no warm-up band, the concert started right on time (well, actually 4 minutes late, which is technically “early” in the rock concert world). And it went on for almost 3 hours without a break – song after song after song. He performed several of his biggest hits as well as some of his newer lesser-known material. The entire sold-out arena was completely engaged from beginning to end, as Elton and his band delivered the goods with utmost precision.

As the show progressed, it became clear as to why Elton has been able to maintain a strong career for over four decades. His fame and accomplishments are the result of authentic talent. His songs are true songs, many of which defy being “dated.” He simply knows how to write great melodies, accompanied by great arrangements. And he can play the piano and sing far better than I had expected him to be able to do in a lengthy live situation. Even at his age, he performs with a passion which exemplifies an authentic love for what he does.

Many other performers have come and gone over the years, even filling stadiums and arenas for a season or two. But few have been able to maintain the high profile career that Elton has. Audiences can quickly tire of special effects and other stage antics that are often needed to keep them engaged. But when the music at its heart is great, being performed by a team of top-notch passionate musicians, all else fades into the background.

Apart from the fact that I found it too loud (OK, so I’m getting old), and I had to endure the sight of a couple near us that were clearly reliving a high school moment of grope-dancing, I will gladly go to see and hear him and his great band again anytime, anywhere. Saturday night was indeed alright.

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