VIC - Rock On, Tiny Dancer
I was privileged to see last Wednesday Elton John’s farewell tour performance in Columbia. Despite the mid-week show and getting home in the wee hours of Thursday (people our age are just too old for that) the Colonial was packed.
For a guy over 70 (!).
Same held true for last month’s Fleetwood Mac concert. In spite of missing Lindsay Buckingham, the band played on, everybody had a turn at a featured role in the show, and Buckingham’s spot was covered by two guitarists.
This summer Pat and I are headed to Las Vegas to see Hugh Jackman and Panatonix. Then, maybe, we’ll take a little break.
Truth is, there is nothing like live music. The City of Clinton brings it to the local stage in May with featured performer Leroy Parnell. Lots of other concerts will be around for the spring and summer - we live in a really performance-rich environment, the Upstate of South Carolina.
On Sir Elton, his piano-playing was superb, and I imagine he will continue to do some of that in the studio. He wants to end a 50-year career of touring, and slow down long enough to parent his two sons. His foundation continues to raise millions for research into AIDS - once a death-sentence disease, now manageable through medicines, although like all medicines in the United States expense can be a barrier. Millions of these dollars have been raised and donated by the gay community, the first segment of our society killed by AIDS. John leaves behind a catalog of music unsurpassed by anyone, and it was obvious from the extensive video clips shown behind him and his tight, seven-piece band (no back-up singers or horns) Sir Elton never missed a chance to be in front of the camera. His flamboyance rivals Liberace and Little Richard, two diverse performers from different, tho overlapping eras.
I would have preferred just a little less orchestration. Obviously, performing the same catalog for 50 years gets mind-numbing, so the musical direction gave Elton a chance to improvise and push himself, musically. He nowhere near pushed himself physically, as he did as a young man. At the end, he rode a walker-looking device up a ramp (perhaps an homage to advancing age) and through a door on a black screen - everybody waved him “Good-bye” then his familiar “Yellow Brick Road” graphic was the final image. A great piece of show business.
But, to me, take a page from the Fleetwood Mac tour. Mick introduces a song that the band - which, like Sir Elton. started in the late ‘60s - didn’t even originate. It was one of the replacement guitarists, Neil Finn, of the New Zealand band Crowded House, that brought “Don’t Dream, It’s Over” to our ears. In keeping with the ‘80s, it was orchestrated to be a radio hit - but Neil stripped it down. There’s a YouTube video of him playing it on an acoustic guitar with a small orchestra, no drums. He did that acoustic arrangement again for Fleetwood Mac.
It was set up this way, of course, but it brought a calming effect the middle of a power-packed show.
One man. One guitar. One spotlight.
Then, he was joined by Stevie Nicks. They transitioned into “Landslide” - highlight of the show, no doubt.
You see, this is what is great about music.
Songs can be interpreted, re-invented and, yes, not always successfully. Sir Elton mentioned that as struggling song-writers he and Bernie Taupin were beyond thrilled that one of their first songs was re-imaged by the late Aretha Franklin. He said he always mentioned it to Aretha every time he saw her as the years went on. Some day, a whole new generation is going to re-image Jim Morrison, Freddie Mercury, Sir Paul McCartney, The Boss and Bob Marley, and, yes, Stevie Nicks and Elton John.
Rock ‘n’ Roll is about 75 years old, and despite dire early warnings, it has not yet corrupted the world. From its roots to modern-day mega-concerts it is a business, sure. It also is a genre of beauty, passion and power.
Vic MacDonald is editor of The Clinton Chronicle. The views expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chronicle. MacDonald can be reached at 833-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org