Friday, February 29, 2008

More Elton in Canada?

Elton John in concertElton getting ready to announce more Canada dates...

A Captain Fantastic idea

Halifax could be in running for an Elton John indoor concert

By DAVENE JEFFREY Staff Reporter
Thu. Feb 28 - 5:12 AM

The Rocket Man could be touching down in Halifax this year.

Elton John is considering performing three or four concerts in Atlantic Canada, says concert promoter Riley O’Connor of Live Nation.

Mr. O’Connor told CTV News that Mr. John is looking at suitable locations in the Maritimes and Newfoundland.

Live Nation is promoting two shows in Ontario and several in the United States.

Mr. O’Connor says it’s not feasible for the legendary singer to play a single concert in the region. He says Mr. John prefers to play indoor venues.

Mr. O’Connor told CTV he’s interested in playing cities that are not "your typical triple-A five-star attractions." Nothing is finalized, but he says the concerts could happen any time before December.

He told the Sudbury Star a few days ago that September would be the most likely time.

Mr. John will play a sold-out concert this Sunday at a 6,000-seat venue in Sudbury, Ont. Ticket prices there range from $87.50 to $129.50

The 10,000-seat Metro Centre in Halifax is the largest indoor venue in Atlantic Canada. "I’d be happy to see him anywhere as long as it is in Halifax," said Coun. Dawn Sloane (Halifax Downtown).

Ms. Sloane could not confirm Mr. John’s promoters have been in touch with Halifax, but she’s heard rumours. "I had a call last week," she said. "We’re on the list now."

Ms. Sloane said Halifax can now draw "triple-A" acts and the acts know that fans here will shell out for the tickets.

About two weeks ago, Creative Entertainment Group confirmed it has a contract with Halifax to pursue big-name acts capable of filling the Halifax Commons, which has a capacity of 40,000. Creative Entertainment president Sharon Kim-Dion said only about a half-dozen acts on the planet can fill that kind of venue.

Creative Entertainment, based in Europe with offices in New York, has worked with Mr. John in the past, according to the company’s website.

According to, his North American tour begins today in Portland, Maine. So far, there are only two Canadian concert dates, Sudbury on Sunday and Kitchener on Monday.

He will be performing in the United States until June 22. His schedule includes two stints in Las Vegas from March 19 to April 6 and then June 3 to June 22.

From June 28 to July 13, Mr. John has several concerts scheduled in Europe and England. Then his date book appears to be wide open until a performance in France on Dec. 9.

Mayor Peter Kelly, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening, said this month that Halifax lost out in a bidding war for an Elton John show last year.

In November, Celine Dion backed out of a concert for this summer on the Commons, citing mixed public reaction.

"I believe that’s water under the bridge and we’re moving forward," Ms. Sloane said.

Indeed, a month after the Quebec-born singer cancelled her Halifax date, the city snagged Australian superstar Keith Urban, who will headline Country Rocks 2008, an eight-act concert on the Commons on Aug. 30.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Review: "Rock Of The Westies"

Elton John 1975 Rock of the WestiesA terrific review of Elton's 1975 album Rock of the Westies from Crazy Water Community member rokitr;

I know this album isn't liked by many people here, but it remains a standout for me; being Elton's first and only real "rock & roll" album and remains his hardest rocking release to date. But it's not just about the "rock"....

As for Bernie's lyrics on this record, I don't get all the venom as the lyrics are clever, rhythmic and, in some cases, stunningly powerful.

Yet for all intents and purposes, the goal with "Rock Of The Westies" was to showcase Elton and Bernie's new band and to let loose with a rock & roll fervor that was evident on the stage during their debut performance on June 21, 1975 at Wembley (which can be heard on the Deluxe Edition of the "Captain Fantastic" album). The album was recorded in about a week's time following the Wembley show.

As Bernie told me in one of my interviews with him:
"Actually, 'Rock Of The Westies' is one of my favorite albums; I just love that record. I think we really achieved what we wanted to do at the time. We wanted to put a rock & roll band together, and that's what we did. We went to Caribou Studios in the Rockies (Colorado); it was a good place, it was a funky place, and it was basically a +$!%#%-up band [laughs].

"We were all at the high point there of abusing ourselves to the max. It was Jack Daniels and lines on the console, and somehow we got it done. I don't remember anything about the sessions, and I don't think anybody in that band will remember them either, but for some reason with that album, it paid off. Luckily, we're all still alive to tell the tale.

"What was happening at that time, and probably the reason we were flying so high, is that we had done everything. There was no mountain to scale or to conquer anymore. We had filled the biggest stadiums; there weren't any places that were bigger. We had seven consecutive Number One albums, and you can't go to anywhere else, except down. And at that time, Elton John farting would have sold, and that's intense pressure to be under because you suddenly realize that there's no other place to go but down.

"And that pressure and the slow long burnout of all the drink and drugs manifested itself in the next album, "Blue Moves," which was so introspective. But the 'Rock Of The Westies' period was a great time and, like I said, that's still one of my favorite albums."

There also seems to be people who just don't seem to get Bernie's lyrics on "Rock Of The Westies," that they're somehow not of any quality of all. I have to disagree as I think there's some very strong lyrical content; especially when realizing that they went into the album to write a rock & roll record.

Medley [Yell Help, Wednesday Night, Ugly]
Always hated the use of "Medley" in the title of the song, rather than the three separate lyrical concepts that Elton pulled together as an homage to his then-favorite band, Little Feat, who created a similar musical mosaic on "Tripe Face Boogie" from 1974's "Feats Don't Fail Me Now." Lyrically, it's also an interesting word-painting created by the bringing together of different songs; not unlike what the Beatles did with Lennon's medley on "Abbey Road" or what Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings did with the tying together of two separate songs on the Guess Who's major hit, "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature" from 1970.

The lyrics effectively serve up a landscape of dispair and isolation--feelings that almost always lead to misguided acceptance of superstitions-and then the tying together of superstitious voodoo and New Orleans makes for an interesting travelogue of a fateful journey in search of the perfect ideal (in this case, the comfort of a mundane Wednesday Night).

Needless to say, the inventive music, band performance, and aggressive vocals from Elton makes for one of the most interesting (and definitely most original) songs in the entire Taupin/John catalog.

Dan Dare (Pilot Of The Future)
Bernie's tribute to Britain's famous 1950s comic book hero, Dan Dare. Pretty much unheard of in America-Dan Dare is the equivalent to America's Buck Rogers-there was a bit of confusion about this song at the time of its release in the States, but the stuttering bassline and another fine performance from the band (especially the excellent vocal interplay) has stood the test of time.

Lyrically, Bernie's words definitely appeal more to the English audience as he does an excellent job of painting a musical portrait of Dan Dare's cartoon universe. He also pulls a surprising climax by noting at the very end of the song that he in fact "liked The Mekon" (who is the equally famous alien creature who was Dan Dare's lifelong arch enemy). A nice Taupin-like twist.

Elton John - The Mekon from Dan Dare
Island Girl

A very clever lyric of a New York streetwalker from Jamaica wrapped around the poppiest melody Elton brought to the album. Some have mistakenly dubbed this lyric misogynistic or racist, when the lyrics only detail a black john who wants to save the "big girl, she's standing six foot three" from her white pimp ("the racket boss"), but ultimately the "cause is lost."

Bernie's touched on the ladies of the night before, such as with the classic and brilliant "Sweet Painted Lady" from "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."

Grow Some Funk Of Your Own
A witty rock & roll tale of a guy who gets into a scuffle over a girl in a border town. Elton's vocal is the perfect mix of humor ("oh, it hurt so much") and aggression that the lyrics call for; as the character finds himself alone in the battle as his friends leave him behind to deal with the situation on his own. Fortunately, for the protagonist, it was nothing more than dream.

I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford)
Another one of Bernie's ode to America's Old West that he first did so well back on "Tumbleweed Connection." And while mapping the entire song to the little-known character of "Robert Ford" (the coward who shot his friend the outlaw Jesse James in the back) left some people a little mystified, those familiar with Ford's legacy could best feel the emotional impact that Taupin's lyrics bring to bare.

It's always difficult to put one's own shame and blame behind the destruction of a relationship into song, Bernie does it brilliantly on this album centerpiece.

Street Kids
Lyrically, Bernie talks of his teenage years, hanging out and seeing the juvenile delinquent gangs in those same "East End nights" he wrote about an album earlier in "Someone Saved My Life Tonight", and includes some outstanding cinematic lines-"I've been bottled and been brained" and "If you think you've seen gasoline burning in my eyes".

He also notes the insidious nature of street gang involvement, "I'd like to break away from the rut I'm in," only to fall back into the comfort of the only thing you know ("but beggars can't be choosers and I was born to sin").

The only real problem for me on this tank-blazing guitar rocker is that it just goes on too long. I've done a simple edit that brings it down to a much-more-compact four-and-a-half minutes, without losing any of Bernie's lyrics or Elton's muscular swagger.

Hard Luck Story
Written under Bernie and Elton's pseudonym Carte Blanche and Ann Orson (the same credit they used for "Don't Go Breaking My Heart")-and then recorded first by Kiki Dee as a single in 1974 (which Elton co-produced)-this tale of domestic turmoil in a blue-collar household is one of Taupin's most powerful lyrics about ups-and-downs of marriage. When temporary bitterness over one's lot in life comes screaming to the forefront of a troubled relationship. Bernie's lyrics really paint an amazing portrait of what goes on in those little houses down the street. Brilliant.

Feed Me
It's truly amazing that this incredibly powerful lyric was written a year before Bernie would climb out of the "Crazy Water" that was engulfing himself, Elton and the band at the end of the "Blue Moves" recording sessions. It was only then that Bernie split from Elton and took off to Mexico to "dry out, because I think we were all killing ourselves."

Interestingly enough, "Feed Me" gives some hints of where Bernie's head was a full year before. One of rock's most powerful lyrical examples of drug abuse written DURING that timeframe; not through hindsight, but when one finds himself in the midst of the insanity itself.

In the lyrics, Bernie feels the pull of addiction (needing to be fed), but was also well-aware of where their "life in the fast lane" was heading. Still, he wasn't ready or yet capable of walking away. Paranoia, sleeplessness, encroaching madness and hallucinations are all very much a part of a body and mind embroiled in a steady over-indulgence of drink and drugs, and no rock lyric has ever spelled out the pain, fear and isolation as well as Bernie does here.

Billy Bones & The White Bird
Bernie's love of characters comes through again with this song about Billy Bones, the fictional pirate in the literary classic, "Treasure Island." The mysterious seaman who happens upon a seaside village with a mysterious sea chest. While no one truly knows his real story, his drunken exploits and less-than-amicable antics actually turn him into a bit of a local legend. His equally mysterious death within a year only adds to his legend.

Bernie's lyrics push beyond the legend (in admittedly obscure fashion) and Billy Bones rides again on the "sea" (which Bernie beautifully describes as "the field these old jack tars have sown")….incidentally, for those without any knowledge of seamanship or ancient voyages, "jack tars" is an old british slang term for seaman or sailors.

While these are the most oblique lyrics on the album, they are engaging, fun wordplay that Bernie has always engaged in and Elton's melody is uplifted by the "kitchen sink" instrumentation and production. Hardly the album's highpoint, it's once again a thousand miles away from what went before.

Historical Overview
Overall, Bernie's use of literary, fictitious and historical characters throughout "Rock Of The Westies" is something that Bernie has done time and time again throughout his career. Whether through the characters in "Tumbleweed Connection" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," for some reason, it hasn't been recognized on this much under-valued and overlooked album.

If nothing else, "Rock Of The Westies" shows Elton and Bernie pulling out all the stops and not trying to copy any of their work that went before. It was a bold album then, and it remains within their illustrious catalog as their most adventureous and definitely their most straight-ahead rock & roll collection. It's almost their "White Album," where anything went and they followed their creative muse wherever it took them, relying on inspiration instead of stagnation and opening doors that most felt were closed to them. A marvelous mutt of an album that deserves far more praise than it gets around these parts.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

He made the right choice...

Elton John and Mary J. Blige at the EJAF Oscar PartyThank goodness...

Did Elton John Drop His Pants for Charity?

Sharon Stone sure knows how to get people to pay up.

She was a guest auctioneer at Elton John and David Furnish's Oscar gala benefiting the Elton John AIDS Foundation. And while coaxing one fella to bid $1 million for a 1971 Stingray Corvette donated by her family, Stone sneered, "Don't be a p--sy!"

Sir Elton joined Stone onstage to try to get even more money for it. "Elton and I will sing a duet," Stone joked.

Better yet, John announced, "I'll take my trousers off."

Also up for bid was a rare black-and-white print by the late photographer Helmut Newton. X-Men: The Last Stand director Brett Ratner bid first with $150,000. When bidding hit a high of $900,000, the auctioneer pleaded with Ratner to go for a million. "You have the money," the auctioneer said.

Ratner didn't bite.

Around 9:50, John started the night's performance with "The Bitch Is Back." Here's what else went down...

A maybe pregnant Minnie Driver moved closer to the stage, swaying back and forth with a male pal. If she's expecting, her Empire-waisted gown hid her bump well. (My gossip cohort Hollywood Party Girl reported earlier that when Driver was asked on the press line if she was going to be a mommy, she simply answered, "No comment.")

At about the same time, I saw conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Wendi Deng, checking out the Chopard jewels on display. One of the many gays at the bash told me, "God, I was so tempted to trip him."

John's performance continued with surprise duets, including Jack Shears of the Scissor Sisters and Mary J. Blige.

Sitting at the head table with Stone, designer Donna Karan was suddenly but playfully accosted by a man in a gold shirt and tight black pants. He jumped on a chair behind her and started dancing, and he ended up gyrating against the back of her head!

More stars, like Tom Wilkinson and Jeremy Piven, arrived around 10:30. And then came Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart. They were escorted to a spot not far from the stage, where they danced arm in arm to John and Blige singing "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues."

Heidi Klum was a late arrival, along with hubby Seal. She'd changed from the red John Galliano dress she wore to the show into a metallic minidress.

Then Prince made his entrance—with three women. They immediately took a seat on the couch, surrounded by four security guards.

The very last celeb I saw make it in was Best Actress winner Marion Cotillard. She and her friends were taken to the couch where Prince had been sitting and toasted with champagne. She had to have been in heaven, don't you think?

—Filed by Marc Malkin

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"27 Jennifers" - My new favorite song!

"27 Jennifers" by Mike Doughty.

Elton raises $5 million with a little help from his friends

16th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Party Celebrating The Academy Awards Raises $5.1 Million

LOS ANGELES, Feb 25, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Sir Elton John and David Furnish hosted the 16th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) Academy Awards(R: 58.88, -2.21, -3.61%) Viewing party. The event was held on Sunday, February 24, 2008 at the Pacific Design Center and was co-sponsored by Chopard and VH1. EJAF's party to celebrate the Academy Awards(R: 58.88, -2.21, -3.61%) was one of the night's most attended parties and raised a record breaking $5.1 million.

The annual gala continues to be the leading fundraising event in Hollywood on Oscar night. This year's gala brought some exciting moments including a live performance by Sir Elton John with his entire band. Special guests Mary J. Blige and Jack Shears of Scissor Sisters added excitement to an important fundraising evening.

This year's guests included Hollywood luminaries such as: "Best Actress" Winner Marion Cotillard, "Best Supporting Actor" Nominee Tom Wilkinson, "Best Supporting Actress" Nominee Amy Adams, Ellen DeGegneres & Portia De Rossi, Sean Penn, Patricia Clarkson, Calista Flockhart & Harrison Ford, Josh Groban, Faye Dunaway, Sean Combs, Seal & Heidi Klum, Prince, Kate Beckinsale, Billy Joel, Courtney Love, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Petra Nemcova, Jeremy Piven, Roberto Cavalli, Minnie Driver, Simon Cowell, Herbie Hancock, Natasha Henstridge, Larry King, Erick McCormack, Jason Lewis, Johnny Lee Miller, Brett Ratner, Jason Retiman, Rupert Murdoch, Jennifer Coolidge, Russell Simmons, Cheryl Tiegs, John Waters and Ziyi Zhang among others.

As is tradition immediately following dinner, auctioneer Jamie Niven led the evening's live auction with some of the best items to date with proceeds benefiting the Elton John Aids Foundation. Items included, Chopard sunglasses custom-designed by Julianne Moore, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Brooke Shields; George Condo's "The Laughing Comedian" 2007; 1974 vintage Corvette from Sharon Stone's personal collection; and the vacation package of a lifetime -- "Around the World in 80 Ways" -- to celebrate the 80th year of the Oscars.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Elton's Oscar Party

Elton John is the belle of the Academy Awards parties

By SOLVEJ SCHOU Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES—With Vanity Fair sitting one out this year, the belle of the Oscars balls was a piano playing, "Rocket Man" singing, silver tie wearing Elton John.

The singer's 16th annual viewing dinner and after-party benefiting the Elton John AIDS Foundation topped other bashes on Sunday with 750 guests and a bevy of A-list stars who sipped on cocktails and feasted on a four-course meal under the Pacific Design Center's red-draped tent before John himself took to the stage.

Vanity Fair's lavish, celebrity-drenched annual shindig, typically the peak party of Academy Awards night, was canceled weeks earlier before the end of the 100-day Hollywood writers strike.

Just before 10 p.m. Sunday, after greeting every table, John pounded out the first of 11 tunes, his first time in several years playing a full set with an entire band at his own party.

Wearing an ornate Yohji Yamamoto black suit and black-framed glasses, he pointed at the crowd, banged on his piano and even had the likes of Sean Penn moving along.

The crowd howled and clapped in approval when John broke out hits like "Rocket Man" and "Tiny Dancer."

One-time Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson, in a fitted cocktail dress, mouthed the words, her arms in the air. Calista Flockhart swayed next to her beau, Harrison Ford. Supermodel Petra Nemcova jumped on a few chairs and shimmied with joy. Faye Dunaway bopped her head. Stevie Wonder grinned, weaving his neck to the music.

J. Blige dueted with John on one number, as did Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears, who wore a bright neon yellow-green suit, jumped on John's piano and did the twist.