The first U.K.-wide tour by Elton in seven years will leave a lasting, but mixed, impression with me. What was a sell-out tour in July - even before Princess Diana's death - was perhaps overdone, seeing as sales of Elton's tour with Billy Joel - the first of its kind outside the U.S. - saw a slow start to ticket sales.
What made fans burst for Elton's December tour still amazes me. This show was just before Christmas 1997.
His performance at Manchester was a major disappointment, as fans such as Mike Bibby discovered. Mike wrote in to Elton's management to complain about Elton's decision to reportedly cut his show by around 40 minutes without an explanation to the paying audience, and to vow he'd never tour in Manchester, or the U.K. again. To top it all, Elton threatened - in a tantrum we're relieved - that the Joel combo was also off in 1998.
I don't expect this article to curry favour with Elton, but I feel "honesty is such a lonely word" to steal a lyric from Joel. Well, I ventured out to Wembley Arena December 19, and despite the hype a few tickets were still available - although not many. I got a good seat with Eriko from Japan and we sat down in London's premier dustbin venue. That's right. Of all the venues, the worst was chosen. The arena has an awful tinny sound which ruined the sound of Elton's magnificent effort.
He was also enjoying himself. What a relief. After the Manchester gig on Dec. 14, we were all anxious that he'd recovered his composure. Elton smiled a lot, did his usual below-piano routine for Bennie and the Jets, and conveyed to the audience that his niece was celebrating her 20th birthday.
ON THE FINAL NIGHT, DEC. 20 AND I GAVE MY TICKET TO A MUCH MORE APPRECIATIVE OTAR TATISHVILI WHO'D NEVER SEEN ELTON LIVE, ELTON PLAYED "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GUY BABYLON".
But the first half of the repertoire was slow, with predictable songs. Simple Life to start, flowed - as always - into The One (still one of my all-time favourite songs) before he hit Grey Seal. Well this song was a surprise, but his age was playing here. The great arpeggio at the song's start was played at half-speed!
TBP songs If The River Can Bend, Something About... and that awfully slow and sentimental Love's Got a Lot to Answer For were our diet. I'd have rather he played Recover Your Soul - a great example of vocal control over song, and that other great Wicked Dreams. No such luck!
The second half of the show truly picked up when Elton finally played Made In England - another of my favourites - on home turf. Elton had never before sung this in the U.K.. It was as though Made In England, For Export Only!
As predictably as the show started, so it finished on a familiar note, Your Song. Again, I would have preferred him to have joined in the festive season with that great stomper Step Into Christmas.
Sorry Sir Elton. I expect you'll now be sending me to the Tower of London!