He’s like everyone’s favorite uncle at the wedding, you know, the guy who’s been married twice, beat a substance abuse issue, loves to sing, moves from table to table entertaining everyone with family stories of the last 52 plus years. Lately, he has a tough time walking let alone dancing but he’ll give it a shot. Dressed to the nines, by night’s end his pants need to be adjusted and his shirt tail is hanging out, his glasses askew and every one knows it’s a piece but who cares, he’s up and going to sing every song we know, maybe a bit off key but hell, he’s gonna sing and play every song we know. No matter what we, his audience, are expected to join in, to have a great time, he’ll make sure of it.
Sir Elton John aka Reg Dwight is currently on his FAREWELL TOUR which according to his original plans would last for approximately three years, give or take a few years as COVID threw us a few curves. This tour is giving him and his band enough time to circle the globe, visiting five continents while performing over 300 shows. This trek around the world is no easy task for any touring band but this act starring a 75 year old performer along with his entourage, well, they are not just any act, this is SIR ELTON JOHN, a beloved citizen of the entire world.
It has been 52 years almost to the date when I first experienced ELTON JOHN. To me, Elton John is a phenomena, one I saw on his very first tour of the USA, November of 1970 at FILLMORE EAST. There that weekend for two nights, four shows he shared a bill with the headlining LEON RUSSELL. Needless to say, that night was amazing and I became a fan. On November 8 of 2018, during the FAREWELL: GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD TOUR, ELTON was performing at MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, my 14th time seeing him in his 52 year career, and that’s not including the times he guested with other acts in the New York area.(The Beach Boys one time and Bonnie Raitt another).
Tonight, November 20-21, while I experienced the entire performance of 23 songs on Disney + I thought of how the years have slipped away, gracefully for the most part with a few slips. In 1970 this new act, Elton John, well by the end of his set I was standing and shouting for “more” along with the other 2600 plus folks. We were in total amazement. He was fantastic, performing on a grand piano accompanied by a bass player and a drummer, just a trio. Elton John literally lit up the stage (with a Mickey Mouse light attached to the front of his pants) while performing backward kicks ala Jerry Lee Lewis off of his piano. A few night previously he and band did a live radio concert on station WPLJ-FM (I taped it) which the following year became the 11-17-70 release. ELTON Fillmore setlist: “CAN I PUT YOU ON”, “COUNTRY COMFORT”, “HONKY TONK WOMEN”, “BURN DOWN THE MISSION (this was a WOW moment)”,“MY BABY LEFT ME/GET BACK/GIVE PEACE A CHANCE”.
(#2)April 10,1971: ELTON JOHN/ SEATRAIN/ WISHBONE ASH @ FILLMORE EAST. This was a three night engagement, two shows a night. Everyone I knew was scrambling for tickets so my two were priceless and the offers for at least one of my two were enticing. This weekend ELTON JOHN stole the hearts and souls of all non-believers. This trio’s (Elton, Nigel Olsson, Dee Murray) set produced numerous rounds of thunderous applause. He was on his way to stardom, no question. I arrived home as the sun was rising on Easter morn.Set List: Your Song, Sixty Years On, Border Song, Ballad of a Well Known Gun, Friends, Can I Put You On, Country Comfort, The King Must Die, Honky Tonk Women, Amoreena, My Father’s Gun, Indian Sunset, Talking Old Soldiers, Take Me To The Pilot, Burn Down The Mission Encore: My Baby Left Me/Get back
(#3)JUNE 10,1971: ELTON JOHN@ Carnegie Hall, the midnight show. A date stood me up, canceling out on me at the last minute. So I’m stuck with a very hard to come by ticket. A couple I knew were driving so I took advantage of their offer and set off for the friendly skies in their car. I met a guy I worked with from the college newspaper staff at the door who needed a ticket, I handed it to him while he told me about the BYRDS concert at Fillmore East the previous night when ELTON JOHN showed up unannounced to perform a short solo set. Tonight, inside Carnegie Hall, ELTON did an acoustic set first, just he and a piano. After a short intermission we were treated to an incredible electric set. Incredible, it truly was. It was early morn with the sun rising as I slept in their Volkswagen heading home. SET LIST: From my notes: Opened with “Your Song” closed with” The King Must Die”.
NYT:(6/12/71)Elton John appeared Thursday and again last night before an impassioned audience at Carnegie Hall, in what must be the best‐produced rock concert there in a great long while. Mr. John—actually Reginald Dwight, he took his stage name from two British musicians, Elton Dean and John Baldry— played a long and beautiful concert divided into two parts. On Thursday, the first half saw him soloing at the piano, playing new songs and older ones that he felt weren’t suited for a rock band. “Your Song,” “Skyline Pigeon” and one that I seem to recall as titled “Old Soldiers” went down especially well. For the second half, he was joined by his regular accompanists, Nigel Olsson, drums: and Dee Murray, bass. They played “Country Comfort,” “Honky Tonk Women” and a stunning version of “The King Must Die.”The sound engineering was perfect, save for a slight tendency to lose Mr. John’s voice at the very loudest moments. Never have I heard such good sound from a rock band in Carnegie Hall. Mr. Olsson’s drums were amplified perfectly, and he gave a performance that was often beyond breathtaking. Elton John and his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, clearly are deserving of their popularity. Not everything they turn out is genius, as some quarters of the rock world seem to expect. But Elton John is good often enough to make close scrutiny a necessity.
(#4)Oct 9,1972: ELTON JOHN “Larry Legs Smith Tour” with The Sutherland Bros and Quiver@ Nassau Coliseum, This is NOT the ELTON JOHN I saw the last few times in smaller venues. He is ready for the big time and big time shows. HONKY CHATEAU was released in the spring and became his first #1 album in the US. Set list from my notes, not all inclusive: “Your Song”, “Levon”, “Rocket Man”, “Can I Put You On”, “Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters”, “Country Comfort”, “Have Mercy On The Criminal, “Crocodile Rock”, “Take Me To The Pilot”. The band now included guitarist DAVEY JOHNSTONE and LARRY “Legs SMITH once a member of The Bonzo Dog Band.
JUNE14,1974: BEACH BOYS/ KIKI DEE @ NASSAU COLISEUM The HOLLAND TOUR w/ Elton John guesting on “Barbara Ann” and then Paul Simon joins the Beach Boys doing “Fun, Fun, Fun”,both encores.
(5)Nov 29,1974: ELTON JOHN @ MSG :Taking the train in we hear that JOHN LENNON guested with ELTON on I SAW HER STANDING THERE the previous evening. A WOW factor was added. We had pretty good box seats to the stage right, seated behind NEIL SEDAKA and his wife. Neil was a gentleman when we spoke, he started the conversation. Lights dim and FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND/LOVE LIES BLEEDING opens the show. Geez, that was amazingly good. CANDLE IN THE WIND brought out the cigarette lighters, BENNIE AND THE JETS, GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD, and then when he played LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS I thought, “here he comes” but no, JOHN LENNON did not perform that night.
(6)AUGUST 11,1976 ELTON JOHN@ Madison Square Garden with KIKI DEE. WPLJ-FM gave out buttons to the attendees of this seven night stand at THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS ARENA. The band consisted of the musicians playing on his last two endeavors ROCK OF THE WESTIES and BLUE MOVES. They opened up with GROW SOME FUNK OF YOUR OWN, performed LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS, DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART with Kiki Dee, and closed with SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT (for Fighting) before called back for YOUR SONG and PINBALL WIZARD. Well worth the price of admission.
A few night later (August 18,1976) while we were at Wollman Rink in Central Park enjoying a concert by Muddy Waters and Bonnie Raitt, surprise….Elton John joins Bonnie to sing harmony on two tunes.
(7)Aug 7,1982: ELTON JOHN@ MSG. Quarterflash opens. Haven’t seen Elton since 1976 when he toured with his ROCK OF THE WESTIES band but this time Davey Johnston returns to the band, with Nigel on drums Dee on bass, etc. The quartet is all I need for this the last night of the tour and last of his 3 sold out nights at MSG. Elton opens with FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND/ LOVE LIES BLEEDING,ALL THE GIRLS LOVE ALICE, SOMEONE SAVED MY LIFE TONIGHT, some new stuff, his tribute to JOHN LENNON, oldie but goodie WHERE TO NOW ST. PETER and plenty of hits before closing out with a medley of WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN GOIN ON/I SAW HER STANDING THERE/TWIST AND SHOUT. It’s well worth the night out.
(8)OCT 14,1984: ELTON JOHN again at MSG (4 shows in 4 nights and then they play one a month later) He was so good last time out that we had to see him again.THE BREAKING HEARTS tour was the basic quartet with an additional keyboardist. TINY DANCER and LEVON opened the evening, the hits mixed with new stuff and of course YOUR SONG:Set list:Tiny Dancer, Levon, Lil ‘Frigerator, Rocket Man, Daniel, Restless, Candle in the Wind, The Bitch Is Back, Who Wears These Shoes, Sad Songs (Say So Much), Bennie And The Jets, Philadelphia Freedom, Blue Eyes, I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, Kiss the Bride, One More Arrow, I’m Still Standing,Your Song, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting with two Encores: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Crocodile Rock”
(9)Oct 18,1988 Elton John at MSG “REG STRIKES BACK” Tour featuring Davey Johnson as musical director and a whole new slew of musicians and singers. But the songs, especially early on in the set were amazing. Sixty Years On, I Need You to Turn To, The King Must Die, Burn Down The Mission, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, Have Mercy on the Criminal, Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Tiny Dancer, The Ballad of Danny Bailey, I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues, Philadelphia Freedom, The Bitch Is Back, Sad Songs (Say So Much), A Word in Spanish, Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters 1&2, Daniel, Rocket Man, I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That, Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), Your Song, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, I’m Still Standing.
(10)October 9,1992-ELTON JOHN “The One Tour”@Madison Square Garden . We are back four years later for one of his 7 scheduled shows at THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS ARENA.Two months ago Elton John played two nights to a sold out SHEA STADIUM, which we passed on. He is newly sober and basically using the same band as 1988.Set List: Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,I’m Still Standing,I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues, Philadelphia Freedom, Burn Down The Mission, Tiny Dancer, Simple Life, The One, I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That, Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters [Parts one and Two], Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, Daniel, The Last Song, Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Rocket Man, All The Girls Love Alice, Sad Songs (Say So Much), The Show Must Go On, Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), The Bitch Is Back, Candle In The Wind, Your Song.
(11)Oct 16,1999: ELTON @ MSG two sold out nights with ELTON JOHN/SOLO just he, bearded wearing a purple suit playing the piano. You know it is going to be a killer show when he opens with “Your Song” and then plays for almost 3 hours. (Video available on Youtube): Setlist: Your Song, Skyline Pigeon, The Greatest Discovery, Border Song, Harmony, Daniel, Honky Cat, Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer, Better Off Dead, Philadelphia Freedom, Elton’s Song, Sweet Painted Lady, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, Ticking, Carla-Etude, Tonight, Burn Down The Mission, The One, Blue Eyes, Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny), Take me to the Pilot, Levon, Crocodile Rock, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Circle of Life, Bennie And The Jets, Candle In The Wind.
(12)Nov 2, 2006: ELTON JOHN @ Nassau “Captain and The Kid Tour”, five years since our last visit, this time he’s with a full band. SET LIST: Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Bennie and the Jets, Philadelphia Freedom, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Believe, Tiny Dancer, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, Take Me To The Pilot, I Want Love, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Postcards From Richard Nixon, Tinderbox, Blues Never Fade Away, The Bridge, The Captain and the Kid, Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word, Rocket Man, Daniel, Levon, Crocodile Rock, The Bitch is Back, Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting), Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Your Song.
(13) (NYT)March 25,2007 ELTON JOHN:60 Years On The Birthday Celebration @ MSG: (NYT)Elton John celebrated his 60th birthday on stage Sunday March 25, making a record-breaking 60th appearance in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Wearing rose-tinted glasses and a black tail coat, the singer-songwriter performed more than 30 hit songs spanning more than four decades. He recalled two of his most memorable appearances at the storied Manhattan venue: a 1974 date in which John Lennon joined him on stage for the last time, and a performance following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Elton John’s longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin serenaded him with a chorus of “Happy Birthday,” accompanied by comedians Robin Williams and Whoopie Goldberg.
Elton ended his concert with his first hit single, “Your Song.” He has sold more than 200 million albums worldwide.
(14)Nov 8, 2018 ELTON JOHN “THE GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD FAREWELL TOUR” @ MSG: It’s 11 years since we sat in his presence, tonight my wife’s birthday. A really strange night, packed, house, pre show dinner and drinks at Cafe 31, a walk in the rain around the arena as the usual entrance was closed off, finally at our seats as the house lights dim to “Benny and The Jets”. It is obvious that the soccer moms directly behind us would rather be chatting about their kids goals all freaking night. It was probably by the time “Tiny Dancer “ was played that I had had enough and told them “Shut the fuck up”, to some applause from members of our section of seats. But soon they forgot my warning and had to be reminded by a lady seated behind them. By the end of the show the soccer mom’s greeted me with a “Fuck you, thanks for ruining our night” or something like that.
NOTE: In March COVID 19 hits and the tour is postponed for two years.
Set list: “Benny and the Jets”, “All The Girls Love Alice”,”I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”, “Border Song”, Tiny Dancer”, “Philadelphia Freedom”, ”Indian Summer”, “Take Me to the Pilot”, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, “Levon”, “Candle In The Wind”, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”, “Burn Down the Mission”, “Believe”, “Daniel”, “Sad Songs”, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”, ”The Bitch Is Back”, “I’m Still Standing”, “Crocodile Rock”, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, “Your Song”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
November 20, 2022: So, tonight as we near midnight with no soccer mom’s chatting behind us, our seats are excellent, the price of admission is affordable, the bathrooms are clean, and the drinks are prepaid, we are home on our couch watching the Disney+ presentation of ELTON JOHN @ DODGER STADIUM. Yo Reg, “thanks for the memories and God bless”, I’m gonna miss you”…Set List:”Bennie and the Jets“, “Philadelphia Freedom“,”I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues“”Border Song“, “Tiny Dancer“, “Have Mercy on the Criminal“, “Rocket Man“, “Take Me to the Pilot“, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight“, “Levon“, “Candle in the Wind“, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding“, “Burn Down the Mission“, “Sad Songs (Say So Much)“, “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word“, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me“, “The Bitch Is Back“, “I’m Still Standing“, “Crocodile Rock“, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting“:Encore “Cold Heart (Pnau remix)“, “Your Song“, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road“.