A review of Elton at "The Bob" and a YouTube clip from the show...
Elton John still dazzles audiences after all these years
By CHUCK DARROW • Courier-Post Staff • March 13, 2008
Elton John presented a far different show than the one we came to know and love during his 1970s heyday while making the only regional stop of his current "Rocket Man" solo tour Monday night at the Bob Carpenter Center on the University of Delaware campus in Newark.
Then, he was the "Rock 'n' Roll Liberace," a highly amped, highly camp, almost cartoonish force of nature in electric suits who fronted a full-tilt band capable of blowing the roof off even the most hangar-like hockey arena.
Monday, however, saw what Jerry Seinfeld might describe as the "Bizarro" Elton John, a complete opposite anchored to his piano stool accompanied only by the occasional keening of canned strings.
But that's exactly what made the 27-song, 2 1/2-hour recital so special.
Stripped of all artifice and visual distractions, the program consisted merely of Elton, his almost-supernatural canon of memorable, meaningful songs and an appreciative -- make that worshipful -- sold-out audience that bathed itself in the warmth of those familiar lyrics and embracing melodies.
With little to hide behind, Elton -- Sir Elton to the Anglophiles among us -- had to be in nothing less than spectacular voice. Given his highly documented cocaine abuse in the 1970s and '80s, it's nearly miraculous that he has any voice at all today. That it may be more rich and powerful than ever is simply off the charts.
Like those of the best male singers before him, Elton's voice has aged nicely. Though not as piercing as they once were, his pipes are now nicely burnished.
Monday, his throaty, mature baritone gave ample emotional heft to any number of minor-key meditations, imbuing them with a melancholy and world-weariness the younger Elton just couldn't provide.
This was especially true on the autumnal "60 Years On," an emotive reading of "Border Song" and the appropriately evocative "Rocket Man," which boasted a coda during which he showed off some impressive stride-piano chops.
And that wasn't EJ's only display of keyboard dexterity. Throughout the evening, his considerable talents as a keyboardist were on display, from the boogie-woogie playfulness of "Crocodile Rock" to the look-at-me-showing-off on the classically inspired instrumental piece "Carla Etude."
If there was a drawback Monday, it was Sir Elton lingered too long in Balladville. But this only served to make the sporadic up-tempo numbers more valuable.
"Honky Cat" didn't miss any support instrumentation; his barrelhouse riffing happily propelled it into the stratosphere. Plus, "Philadelphia Freedom" was a pedal-to-the-metal sprint around the track that served as an emphatic reminder the British pop icon is certainly not too old to rock 'n' roll.
Among the show's other highlights were a typically crowd-pleasing rendition of "Candle in the Wind," an exceptionally muscular "Levon" and a version of "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" on which he sounded a lot like his old chum, Billy Joel, musically and vocally. Reach Chuck Darrow at (856) 486-2442 or firstname.lastname@example.org