Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review & Set List: Elton John @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne

by Paul Cashmere, Noise11

200 years ago, if people could have travelled like they do today, Beethoven would have gone on a world tour. Imagine hearing Fifth Symphony or Moonlight Sonata live by the man who wrote them? That is what being at an Elton John show is like.

We live in an era where we get to witness some of the greatest composers of our time perform their classic pieces before our very own eyes. The music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin is a timeless catalogue that will live on forever.

The output of creativity for John and Taupin is unheard of today. For example, in the five years since his first record Ed Sheeran has released two albums. In the five years since Elton’s first hit album he released nine albums. Ed Sheeran is the biggest male singer songwriter on the planet right now but to become a part of history the body of work is not there.

Elton hails from a time that will one day be considered the Musical Renaissance. With the current music industry obsession of developing disposable stars like Bieber or slowing creative output for real stars like Sheeran, we will not see an artist like Elton develop again in our lifetime.

This tour pays tribute to his 1973 classic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The show opened with a set of songs from side one of the iconic double album and was seeded throughout with songs from the record including the often played title track and Saturday Night’s Already For Fighting and the rarely performed Your Sister Can’t Twist But She Can Rock and Roll.

With an act like Elton there are so many songs to choose and it is impossible to play them all. When you think of the hits he didn’t play like Empty Garden, Little Jeannie, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Island Girl, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Part Time Love, Song For Guy, Blue Eyes, Kiss The Bride, Crystal, Passengers, Nikita, Healing Hands, Sacrifice, Can You Feel The Love Tonight, Circle of Life, Something About The Way You Look Tonight and not even mentioning album classics like Country Comfort, Honky Cat or Captain Fantastic there is a whole other show just there.

Setting up Your Song, Elton acknowledged the wordsmith of his works, Bernie Taupin. Despite being one of the most famous lyricists of all-time Taupin shuns fame and leads a normal and anonymous life without the trappings of celebrity. Elton said that the two have never written a song together in a room. Bernie writes the lyrics and Elton later adds the music. As an example of Bernie’s genius he said that Taupin wrote the words to Your Song when he was 18-years old. The depth of maturity in those words is incredible. The words of Taylor Swift (who happened to be performing at a venue across the road from Elton on the same night) aren’t even in the same ballpark.


Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
But I’ve got a blank space, baby
And I’ll write your name
And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world
It was a privilege once again watch two of the world’s greatest musicians, the architects of the Elton John sound Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone.

Olsson played drums on one track of Elton’s debut album Empty Sky by the time Elton’s fifth album, Honky Chateau, rolled around the Elton John Band with Olsson, Johnstone and bass player Dee Murray was a complete unit. (Murray died in 1992). The classic Elton John albums Honky Chateau, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Rock of the Westies, Caribou and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy all featured the Elton John Band. Olsson was fired after Captain Fantastic (as was Murray, but returned for 21 at 33 in 1980. Last year he performed in Russia with Elton for Elton’s 2000th show.

Johnstone became a member of the Elton John Band after playing session guitar on Madman Across The Water. When he became a full-time member for the next record Honky Chateau, the iconic line-up of the Elton John Band was complete.

A special shout-out must go to Melbourne singer songwriter Ross Wilson who was the mastermind behind his classic Daddy Cool hit Eagle Rock. Without Eagle Rock there never would have been a Crocodile Rock. Elton heard the Daddy Cool hit when he was on his first Australian tour in 1971. Elton toured Australia in October 1971. Eagle Rock had been released six months earlier and had been a number one song by the time he arrived. Elton and Bernie wrote Crocodile Rock, inspired by Eagle Rock. It goes even further. On the cover of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player album Bernie is wearing a Daddy Cool badge. The covers of Tumbleweed Connection and Honky Chateau also feature Bernie wearing Daddy Cool images.

Elton slipped his Melbourne fans an extra song at this show. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word was performed for the first time on this Australian leg of the tour on Friday night in Melbourne.

This two and a half hour show flew by.

Elton John setlist, Melbourne, December 11, 2015

Main Set
  • Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973)
  • Bennie and the Jets (from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973)
  • Candle in the Wind (from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973)
  • All the Girls Love Alice (from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973)
  • Levon (from Madman Across The Water, 1970)
  • Tiny Dancer (from Madman Across The Water, 1970)
  • Believe (from Made In England, 1995)
  • Daniel (from Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, 1973)
  • Philadelphia Freedom (single, 1975)
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973)
  • Rocket Man (from Honky Chateau, 1972)
  • Hey Ahab (from The Union, 2010)
  • I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues (from Too Low For Zero, 1983)
  • The One (from The One, 1992)
  • Your Song (from Elton John, 1970)
  • Burn Down the Mission (from Tumbleweed Connection, 1970)
  • Sad Songs (Say So Much) (from Breaking Hearts, 1984)
  • Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (from Blue Moves, 1976)
  • Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me (from Caribou, 1974)
  • The Bitch Is Back (from Caribou, 1974)
  • I’m Still Standing (from Too Low For Zero, 1983)
  • Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll) (from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973)
  • Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting (from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973)
  • Crocodile Rock (from Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, 1973)
Elton John is currently on tour across Australia for Chugg Entertainment.

Photo: Ros O'Gorman


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