Sir Elton John
American Airlines Center
Paul Ridenour email
A little background first:
Outside of the Beatles, my favorite is Elton John, especially the 1970s EJ. I am a drummer because of Ringo, but EJ’s drummer Nigel Olsson was a big influence.
I was dating Carrie Beckham in 1980 in college when I met Dottie Doyen, my future wife. I never thought Carrie liked me that much but I had tickets to EJ and I am not one to break a date. If fact, I have broken only one date in my life and that was with Trudy Eacret in high school. My brother Dale and his friends were recording an album on a Friday night only. They got rid of their drummer one week before and they were desperate for a drummer. I had to break the date with Trudy and the Steve Miller Band concert in 1977. I gave Trudy the tickets and she took her sister but she was not too happy about it.
In 1980, I expected EJ to be mellow, a night with just him and his piano. He had just come out with the song “Blue Eyes” and I think he was not with his same band members. Boy was I wrong! He had his original band and they rocked out, doing all of the songs from “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” like “Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting,” Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” and “All the Young Girls Love Alive.” I was blown away!
Then I took Dottie to her “first” concert which was Billy Joel, circa 1980/81.
I became friends with a guy circa 1995/96 whose daughter Elizabeth was turning 12 on March 12th, 1996, the same day as my birthday. When I was 12, my church friends had a party for me and they gave me what I wanted, the double album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” It cost $12 and that was a lot of money in those days. I do not think my church friends and especially Laurie Moore who actually picked it up would have bought me the LP if they knew the content of the album. EJ sang about a “Dirty Little Girl,” Sweet Painted Ladies,” and “All The Young Girls Love Alice.” The LP has one of the best rock instrumentals ever in “Funeral For A Friend” and ends with "Harmony."
I decided to get Elizabeth Schalchlin the same thing I got when I was 12, except she would be getting the CD. I figured that if I could handle the album content in the early 1970s as a 12 year-old, Liz could handle it in 1996 as a 12 year-old.
Liz once told her dad when he showed her a 33 1/3 album - “Wow, dad, ya’ll’s CDs were big!”
Liz absolutely loved “Good Yellow Brick Road” and she knew all of the words in the first week. The next time I saw her she just came out and sang “I was playing rock-n-roll and you were just a fan, but my guitars couldn’t hold you so I split the band, love lies bleeding in my hands.”
Liz called me in February of 2005 and said “Paul, let’s go see EJ for our birthday. He will be here on March 24." Liz was going to be 21 and I was going to be, ouch, 45.
I told her that he can’t sing anymore and I basically talked her out of going. I miss the EJ of the 1970s when he could hit those high notes on “Levon” and “Tiny Dancer.” After I hung up, I began to think – “Dottie has never seen EJ and perhaps Liz should go. I should go.” My friends have told me how great EJ and Billy Joel were together. So, I talked myself into going and got three tickets. I could only get the cheap seats for $35 and in Section 330 on the side of the stage. I figured we would hardly be able to see him and that the sound would not be very good.
One of Liz’ “first” concerts that she “remembers” were Eric Johnson and the Steve Miller Band on 7/4/1997. Dottie and I were there with Liz and her family. I had finally got to see Steve Miller.
My review of EJ’s 2005 Dallas concert:
WOW! IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
EJ was with two members of his original band, Davey Johnston and Nigel Olsson. I did not know that Dee Murray had died. EJ had a mostly black choir behind him. He was on the side of the stage, our side. We were in the nosebleed section but we looked right down on him. Speakers were pointing towards our side and we could see the screen with no problem. Thus, we had a great view and the sound was great.
EJ started off doing eight songs from his new CD “Peachtree Road” and the first he produced himself. All of the songs were really good and I will have to buy the CD. Then, he started singing the hits. I know he can’t sing them all and you never know what he will sing that will surprise you. He started with one of my favorites “Benny And The Jets.” Liz had seen a couple where the girl’s shirt read “Benny” and the guy’s read “Jets.” There was a guy dressed as a 1970s flashy EJ with the large glasses. In the album “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player,” EJ has a picture of himself in an all pink suit for the song “Have Mercy On The Criminal.” I did my part. I wore a pink polo shirt and an earring.
I was surprised that EJ did “Take Me To The Pilot.” And, I figured he would do “Levon” and not “Tiny Dancer.” He did both.
His voice sounded great and even if he cannot hit those high notes, the changes in the melody and the richness/uniqueness of his voice made them sound fresh. I could sit for three hours and just listen to him play the piano.
“Rocket Man” had an extended ending that was great but went on too long. I kept thinking he was fixing to break into “Levon” or “Honky Cat,” but he would come back in with “I’m a rocket man.”
Then the song that was worth the entire evening for me and for Liz – “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.” Liz said “Wow, I am back in middle school.”
A 37 year-old girl next to Liz started talking to her and would not shut up. What is it with these people who love to talk during concerts? Once, Liz’ father poured a large coke on a guy’s lap during a concert to put out a joint in an area where no smoking of any kind was allowed. Her father told the guy “I’m a cop. Do you have a problem with that?” The guy said “No sir, no problem!”
Elton said how much he enjoyed singing “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” with the great Ray Charles. EJ was in awe of Ray’s talent. Ray was quite sick when he recorded it with EJ. It was the last song Ray recorded before he died.
When he sang “Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting,” EJ sang “I may sink a little drink and shout out, he’s with me” instead of “she’s with me.”
Of course, one of my favorites (and mom’s) is “Your Song.” I sang it in high school while playing a classical guitar along with guitar player Andrea Steffan. EJ said he came to America 35 years ago and "Your Song" was a #1 hit and he said "I love America!" Elton was very nice and was having a great time on stage and there was no political speech - that's a breath of fresh air after seeing concerts by Sheryl Crow and Peter Gabriel.
During the encores, Elton signed whatever people gave him (T-shirts, money, purses, programs) as he went from stage left to right and back again. He must have spent 5 minutes signing autographs.
EJ did not do “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” “Candle In The Wind,” “Blue Eyes,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and some of my other favorites but as you will see in the play list, it didn’t matter. He covered his long career with a great selection of songs.
EJ did two encores with one song each.
I was glad that Dottie finally got to see EJ. Thanks Liz! And Happy Birthday to ya!
Songs from the new CD
Of the World
Porch Swing In Tupelo – song about Elvis of course
Answer In The Sky
Turn The Lights Out When You Leave – a country song
My Elusive Drug – about the current love of his life
They Call Her The Cat – a song about a sex change
Freaks In Love – a song about the "99% ugly people in the world"
All That I’m Allowed – the first single from the CD
And The Jets
Take Me To The Pilot
That’s Why The Call It The Blues
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Sad Songs Say So Much
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
I’m Still Standing
The Bitch Is Back
Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting