|Elton John. (DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI AGENCY file photo)
OSHAWA, ONT. - When an artist who has traditionally toured with a seasoned backing group opts for a solo jaunt, it could be a risky venture. Songs fleshed out with different instruments are stripped down to their bare essentials leaving very little room for error.
Elton John walked that tightrope Friday night at Oshawa’s General Motors Centre. And oh how he did it so well.
John, 64, dazzled the roughly 6,500 in the arena for two and a half hours through 25 songs. Wearing a smart black ensemble with a red shirt, the piano man opened the night with The One sounding crisp and in control, the pipes never faltering.
“Thank you, I’m very happy to be here tonight,” John said to the enthusiastic crowd, one of five smaller than usual shows the musician is doing in often bypassed markets over the next week: two in Ontario and three Maritime gigs. From there John soared through Sixty Years On and The Greatest Discovery, both from his 1970 self-titled album.
The setup seemed to suit John perfectly while his playing gave plenty of songs room to breathe and flourish. Whether it was the intricate, teasing intros he would give some numbers or going off on lengthy tangents to some boogie-woogie realm or ragtime romp, the musician tickled the ivories with Oscar Peterson-like grace.
Although he gave a shout out to some of his family in the audience and to his “other half” David Furnish and their child in Toronto, John was content to pace the stage after several numbers, salute the crowd, glad-hand occasionally and sign plenty of autographs before the encore began. But the crowd didn’t need much coaxing.
John’s bevy of hits at his disposal such as I’m Still Standing and I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues from the 80s to the 70s staples like Candle In The Wind and Your Song resulted in several standing ovations.
Probably the only low moment – aside from the omission of Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting or The Bitch Is Back – was Gone To Shiloh from The Union, the 2010 album featuring John collaborating with Leon Russell. Yet a lengthy Levon and a show-stopping Rocket Man halfway through made the new number passable.
With many in the crowd content to sit, sway and sing-along, John was terrific on the dramatic Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, the melancholic, dour Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word and the toe-tapping Philadelphia Freedom.
The homestretch took a crowd-pleasing turn with the up-tempo tunes like Bennie And The Jets (which included a portion of In The Mood) and Crocodile Rock, the latter having John act like a conductor to the audience – including those seated behind him – when not cupping his ear to hear the refrain.
Following two dozen songs, John returned for an encore which was a mash-up of sorts, the beginning being Circle Of Life which morphed into Can You Feel The Love Tonight.
And with that both the audience and John felt a lot of love on this night.
Sixty Years On
The Greatest Discovery
Ballad Of The Boy In The Red Shoes
I’m Still Standing
I Guess That’s Why The Call It The Blues
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Gone To Shiloh
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
Take Me To The Pilot
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Candle In The Wind
Bennie And The Jets
Circle Of Life/Can You Feel The Love Tonight