Elton John performing in concert at the Star in Sydney. Picture: Simon Bullard. Source: The Daily Telegraph
AFTER more than two hours on stage, long enough to provoke a steady stream of audience members to sneak off quietly for breaks, ordinary folk might have felt like a breather.
But there was Elton John - at 64, in burgundy shirt and sparkling, monogrammed black jacket and dark glasses - standing on the piano, one foot on the stool and the other up on the lid, encouraging the crowd to lift their voices and clap their hands and make some noise. The tickets weren't cheap, and the audience rose to its feet for this legendary, hard-working entertainer who had plenty music left in him yet.
This is John's 15th tour of Australia, which in itself is a remarkable feat. Indeed, with millions of albums sold and a procession of awards to his name, as well as an embarrassment of hits, there aren't many singers alive who can match this kind of longevity and consistency. As this concert made clear, more than four decades in the spotlight produces a flawless musical machine.
The evening began with John's new opening act, two young Croatian cellists who vigorously take their bows to popular Smooth Criminal and other pop songs. They were then joined on stage by John and his band, which launched immediately into Saturday Night's Alright. From then they hardly took a breath: the band powered through songs from John's long career, from classics such as Rocket Man, Candle In the Wind, Crocodile Rock and Bennie and The Jets to lesser known tracks such as Gone to Shiloh (from last year's album The Union, with Leon Russell) and Holiday Inn (from Madman Across the Water).
He dedicated Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me to George Michael, currently in hospital in Austria suffering from pneumonia, and not yet well enough, according to John, to take calls. "This one's for you, my angel," he said, before delivering a passionate rendition of the song. And later, after a sip of water from the glass beside the piano, he reminisced about his relationship with Sydney, where he married his sound engineer in 1984, saying it was great to be back, this time with his son.
The whole show - it lasted for just over 2 1/2 hours - went off with professional precision. That meant few surprises for a crowd that was given exactly what they came for.
John himself was full of energy the whole time: his voice sounded full and warm, and he played the piano with the verve of a much younger man. So it is not to criticise his band, an 11-piece ensemble that included four female backing singers and the two cellists mentioned above, to observe that the only thing lacking from the occasion was for him to play one of those famous songs alone.