Monday, June 16, 2014

Live review: Elton John, PNC Music Pavilion (6/14/2014)

Posted By on Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 12:53 PM

Elton John
PNC Music Pavilion
June 14, 2014

When musicians who have been around for more than a few decades walk onto a stage, the night usually goes one of two ways. Either the performer will go through the motions and "phone it in" while looking generally bored, or you'll get a show like that of Paul McCartney's: a long night full of hits with a legend who genuinely appears as if he is having an absolute blast on stage and never gives you a moment to doubt his sincerity. Elton John's performance at PNC Music Pavilion on Saturday falls in the latter category.

Wearing a blue, sequined jacket emblazoned with red, yellow and silver streaks and the words "Rocket Man" across the back, 67-year-old Elton John strode toward his piano, waving briefly. During the first song "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding," he often looked at the crowd and smiled. But it wasn't until the song's conclusion that John stood up, pumped his fists and summoned for massive applause. It was an act he'd do throughout the night, perhaps even a bit too much - though, you can't blame a guy who performs seated for getting up to move a bit as often as he can. And those brief glances at the audience are needed from a pianist who shows his side profile for much of the night.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of his seventh, and most popular, album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, John's 26-song setlist relied heavily on that album - including the night's first four songs - combined with plenty of fan favorites and a couple of new tunes mixed in.

Each time we heard a massive sing-along from the crowded amphitheater, the next tune brought a bigger one. "Levon" was outdone by "Tiny Dancer," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" was eclipsed by "Rocket Man," and so it went through to the encore of "Your Song" and "Crocodile Rock."

John shared a few stories about the inspiration for lyrics - and made sure to thank his longtime collaborator Taupin - but mostly it was a greatest-hits performance that never seemed to end, much to the delight of fans. Each time he stood up and we thought he might leave the stage, he'd sit right back down for the next bunch of favorites. It was an exhaustive yet energetic night that kept the crowd on its feet dancing in the cool night air.

He talked briefly of Leon Russell before performing "Hey Ahab" from their 2010 album, The Union, and gave thanks to servicemen before one of his newer songs, "Oceans Away." After closing his regular set with the apropos "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," John returned to spend a few minutes signing autographs for fans up front before closing out with his two-song encore.

The music didn't veer far off from the original blueprints, but they didn't need to. Sure, he let the crowd sing all the high-pitched "la la la la la" parts of "Crocodile Rock," but John proved time and time again throughout the night the strength of his vocals and why he doesn't need backup singers to help fill out the sound. For nearly three hours and after 30 studio albums, he's still got it.

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Bennie and the Jets
Candle in the Wind
Grey Seal
Tiny Dancer
Philadelphia Freedom
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Roy Rogers
Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
Hey Ahab
I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues
The One
Oceans Away
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
All the Girls Love Alice
Home Again
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
I'm Still Standing
The Bitch Is Back
Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n Roll)
Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting

Your Song
Crocodile Rock

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