published Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Friday night's all right for Elton

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    Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson Nov 19, 2010--Elton John walks on stage at McKenzie Arena Friday Night as part of his greatest hits live concert.

British pop superstar Elton John and recording partner and fellow pianist Leon Russell took the stage to a sold-out and enthusiastic crowd at McKenzie Arena on Friday night.

The performance was John's first in Chattanooga since 1999 and one of only four remaining stateside dates he and Russell will play together in support of their collaborative album, "The Union," which was released Nov. 2.

John, who is well known for his flamboyant fashion sense, took the stage in a black duster coat decorated with a colorful, stylized depiction of Russell's face under the words "Music Magic" to introduce Russell, whom he referred to as his musical "idol."

Russell then took the stage looking every inch the rock 'n' roll cowboy in a white hat, brown jacket and dark sunglasses.

He kicked off a seven-song opening set with "Tight Rope," his highest charting single when it released in 1972. Other standouts included "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms" and the closer, "Stranger in a Strange Land," both of which were received enthusiastically by the completely packed arena.

During the first of his two solo sets, John started what would turn into an evening overflowing with greatest hits songs with "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)," which fans throughout the arena reacted to with wild enthusiasm, cameras and souvenir headbands flashing throughout the arena.

Other noteworthy hits included "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and an epic, highly lengthened version of "Rocket Man."

Russell and John then took the stage together to perform about a dozen songs off "The Union," beginning with, "If It Wasn't for Bad," on duel black pianos. John's signature red box was noticeably absent.

John returned to the stage for a final, 10-song solo set comprised entirely of his best-known works, including "Levon," "Tiny Dancer," and "Candle in the Wind." He closed the evening with "Your Song."

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
one4community said...

Another stellar "book report" journalism from the Times Free Press. What I wouldn't do to have a paper that actually does creative, informative journalism....not just something that an eleven year old school paper writer could produce!

November 20, 2010 at 5:04 a.m.
moonpie said...

Indeed.... this was a play by play of what happened. They should have let the color man chime in. Perhaps, the story length is limited by space provided in the print copy... it happens.

It was a good show. It was interesting, too. Educational, could be applied.

It wasn't as raucus as it would have been had Elton played by himself because of the mid-concert duet interlude.

Watching Leon Russell reminded me of the movie Ghost, except instead of Whoopi Goldberg inhabited by Patrick Swayze, it was like Willie Nelson jumped into Santa Clause.

Clearly the Russell is on the last legs of his career and Elton John is doing what he can to support him and promote him. Russell appeared to read all his lyrics from the laptop that was on top of his piano and he didn't interact with the crowd except to rarely wave. Vocally, he was difficult to understand, but the music was lively, crisp and young. For all the flattening of the years on the man's ability to move and emote, he's still an enormous musical talent.

The songs from their record, Union, were quite good and worth buying, for me... it's just that they were not quite up to the level of 50 years of Elton John's greatest hits, which filled the rest of the show.

Finally, Elton fully displayed alacrity on piano that makes him such an enormous talent. His rifts, including on Chattanooga Choo-Choo, clearly stunned the crowd. In two hours he was able to get in a lot of hits, but notably absent were Crocadile Rock, Someone Saved My Life Tonight and Empty Garden. Mercifully absent were his Disney tunes.

In every show, choices have to be made. Ultimately what this show seemed much about was the choice Elton John had made regarding taking one of his mucical idols and bringing him new musical life. It was nice to be part of that gift.

November 20, 2010 at 7:01 a.m.
rosebud said...

Great review moonpie. It's true, the "commenter's" review is better than that of the TFP writer.

November 20, 2010 at 8:39 a.m.
BillVol said...

Hire moonpie! Thanks to him for the review.

November 20, 2010 at 12:52 p.m.
senyahc said...

I loved how Elton John pointed to every person in the audience and thanked them... after every song and thanked US for coming to his show. I was really touched, I felt he should have been thanked for recognizing our small city and ignoring the big one down the road (where he used to live). I would spend the $900 again and again to have this experience with my best girlfriends. I know what a true entertainer is now. Did anyone else notice the 63 year old man leaping off the piano? The dude was seriously spry.

November 22, 2010 at 6:55 a.m.
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