The hottest ticket in the Hudson Valley was last night’s Elton John concert at Bethel Woods Centre for the Arts. This reporter, still weary from the evening, between travelling, clapping and singing, is totally wiped. You have to wonder how the 64 year old pop star is feeling right now.
He and his band did not disappoint, and it was nice to see originals, Davey Johnstone and Nigel Olssen back with Elton, members since the late 60’s-early 70’s. Elton stepped onstage at approximately 8:20 pm, after a last minute entry: two celloists (from Croatia) Elton had discovered. Each played a mean cello, widely thumping the strings, or seemingly playing them so fiercely, you’d think the strings would’ve been sawed in half, they did tunes by U2 and Nirvana. Yes, “I think the song was `Teen Spirit,’ and they played it completely on the cello. And for these unknowns to open for Elton John, and get the crowd to its feet, proves these guys had something extra. But, then, the lights went down, and Elton took the stage, waved to the crowd and immediately began a rockin’ evening that went a full three hours long, without an intermission.
Song after song, Elton reminded us that not only is he a remarkable songwriter, but a masterful piano player as well. One camera was strictly focused on the keyboard, and during Elton’s solos, we could see his fingers dance effortlessly around the keys. After his opening number, he continued with “I’m Still Standing,” and went right into “Levon.” At that point, I ran to get a tee-shirt, and missed two songs from the “Madman Across the Water “album. But I’d returned to hear “The Bitch is Back,” “Daniel,” “Yellow Brick Road,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” and a bluesy and playful “Rocket Man”. In between numbers, as the crowd roared, Elton would stand up, walk the stage, point at the audience, arms raised in the air. The sold out crowd in turn, loved him back. At one point, Elton walked the stage again, and signed autograph after autograph for the many who held up items, like a record album, program, tee-shirt, and a bra. Yes, one free-spirited fan gave Elton a bra to autograph. I think he wrote “Elton” on one cup, and “John” on the other. The crowd went wild.
The last hour featured songs from the new album he did with Leon Russell, and then he went back into concert favorites, “Benny and the Jets,” and “Crocodile Rock.” He drew he show to a close with a gracious speech about how much he appreciated the reception America has given him all these years. And he dedicated “Your Song” to all of us in the Bethel the audience. When you listen to the words, offered in that context, “And you can tell everybody, this is your song.” It really felt like it was.