Elton John in Duluth

Elton John Breaks In Amsoil

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

On Friday night Sir Elton John entertained the nearly 8000 attendees reported at the new Amsoil Arena and showed that this area can sell out a show and get down.

When the lively performance began with a 15 minute jam session, it gave a hint as to what John’s 2011 tour would entail. Everyone got their money’s worth as the performance ran for nearly two and a half hours with many hits from over the years.

The audience was on their feet for most of the evening and most seemed old enough to remember John’s lyrics to the oldies.

When the show began at about 8pm, most of the patrons stood up, but after about 15 minutes of jamming a lot of the people with chairs began to sit down. There were still a few stragglers standing up and dancing through the third song, but for a little over the first hour it was a seated show beyond the front area.

What surprised me most about seeing Elton John for the first time was all of the long jam sessions that he had with his band. There were 10 minute piano solos that dragged on, but to his other fans this may have been the best part. Of the over 2 ½ hours he played, I would say about 1 hour was spent doing jam sessions. John showed why he is known as a great entertainer by getting the crowd out of their seats on several occasions. The first tune to get the audience up and moving was “Levon”, but “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” felt forced.

Sitting above the masses, and surrounded by patrons much older than me, I was nervous to get up and move around much. Last year on PDD there were complaints about the Wilco show and patrons who were forced to stand up to allow people in their row to use the bathroom or get a drink. This was what I thought about each time I rose to let someone get by. Usually when an event occurs in Duluth some very different local will go on PerfectDuluthDay.com to complain. It wouldn’t be a successful event in Duluth without some tree-hugging blogger chiming in with an obscure complaint to PDD. However, a blogger did write that Elton John’s keyboardist Kim Bullard played the Brewhouse on Thursday night with Jessica Myshack, so PDD does have the hot scoop on what is happening locally.

Sitting in the rear curve of Amsoil, a few rows above the floor, the crowd around me appeared sedated. Maybe I was sitting next to a group of “sitters”, but it felt like most people sitting in the rows above the floor were watching a Broadway show. The floor had to stand because as I have learned over the years, it is impossible to see beyond the first few rows down there.

One cool highlight of the evening was after a 15 minute long “Rocket man” when the crowd all rose up. For the last 30 minutes of the show the entire crowd stood up and finally began to dance along. Maybe they were tired of sitting, or maybe they were getting more into the music as the hits came, but either way it was nice to see people move. From my perspective it felt like Sir Elton is at a level where he knows how to get a crowd up when he wants to. He is an entertainer and has a catalog of songs that is deeper than most artists out there. Despite having all those famous songs he didn’t play a lot of the ones he could. The one I was hoping for was “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”, but I was thankful he didn’t play the theme from “The Lion King” or songs from “The Road to El Dorado”.

For the Duluth show there wasn’t as much sequins and feathers worn by John as he did in his younger days, but his audience had a few brave northlanders who donned the pink-feathered apparel. He would rise from his piano between each song and take a stage-wide bow.

My only disappointment was that I had brought along a Sir Elton concert poster from 1969 and was hoping to get him to sign it. Unfortunately, my wife dropped the poster under the chair of the person in front of us just as the show began and the person wouldn’t get up to grab it until after the show had ended. Elton John signed autographs to people in the first few shows before his encore… Had I had my poster I would have ran up, but it wasn’t to be. That poster was one of from my collection that will not be in my 1960s concert poster show at the Tweed beginning at the end of June. Tune in or go to www.fheads.com for more information on that.

The main point of the Friday night show to note was that Elton John is one hell of a great entertainer. Despite an audience of Northerners who refused to stand up for the majority of the show he got them up in the end. John didn’t seem to care and acted as if he knew that eventually he would get them all standing and dancing along with his music and show. He didn’t need to yell out, “Hey, get out of your seats and dance.” All he needed to do was to play “Crocodile Rock” and it was an injection of energy that got the people up. From that point until the end of the show the audience was on their feet.

This is such an amazing opportunity for this area to have a well-known talent like this visit here and sell out. While the days of Sir Elton John jumping around in huge costumes and creating energy have passed, today it’s his music that speaks for itself. It is interesting to watch a performer present material that is larger than the artist itself. It makes me think about what Jack White said when the White Stripes broke up this past year. He said the music didn’t belong to the band anymore and that it now belongs to the fans. John’s music belongs to his fans, but when delivered by the piano master himself it sounds so much sweeter.