Friday, November 30, 2007

Elton Show "Half-Alive"

ELTON JOHN has publicly, and correctly, pilloried pop stars such as his erstwhile friend Madonna, whom he believes don't sing live or rely on augmented/taped material to perform. John has always sung live, and while his now deeper voice no longer hits those high notes, it is still powerful and descriptive.

Likewise, his music has returned to the style and, to a certain extent, the quality of his glory days in the 1970s. You can see that in the way this decade's albums have pulled back from studio "add-ons", those bells and whistles meant to distract from the fact the basic material isn't up to scratch, in favour of the simplicity of good songs.

And lest there be any doubt about possible shirking of responsibilities by a man who is in his 61st year, his shows go well past the two-hour mark, with no interval and only occasional pauses between the 30-odd songs to take applause or sip on a drink.

David Beckham's bandwagon also attended the Acer Arena concert, where he went backstage to meet Elton John, before watching his show from a private suite.

So, is there some moral equivalence happening here when John, playing what is advertised as a "solo" show at the piano, regularly uses prerecorded beds of synthesisers (presumably triggered offstage) to thicken the sound? By thicken I mean intrusive, sometimes overwhelming washes, which subsumed the live piano with cheap, electronically generated sounds. And what are we to make of taped backing vocals bobbing up in the mix in the style of an R&B pop act?

Does he doubt that his songs can carry the show on their own? They can. We're talking Roy Rogers, Tiny Dancer, The Greatest Discovery and The Ballad Of The Boy In The Red Shoes, after all.

Does he think his playing isn't up to it? It is. Does he think we will get bored with just voice and piano? We won't. Or at least we didn't until a ponderous bracket into the third hour where long piano introductions folded into flat versions of Blue Eyes, Take Me To The Pilot, Levon and a half-alive Bennie And The Jets.

Strange choices. Strange night.

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