Thursday, September 26, 2013

'Live From Bestival 3CD Set - A Review'

ELTON JOHN LIVE FROM BESTIVAL 2013  ***** (5 stars)

A very nice way to start the week when this popped through the mail. Concert Live who recorded the European tour shows in the second half of 2009 have returned and captured Elton's headline set on the Sunday night on the Bestival main stage, Isle Of Wight. The package is a 3 CD set with printed discs and fits into a neat cardboard 'digipak'. Featuring 1930's style art deco designs, the packaging is flashy and bright. Much like the sound on the disc, the sound has a shine on it that is clear and sharp. Mixed well, the vocal crowd...and how vocal they are...are blended with the stage sound with perfect balance.

The show opens with the 2Cellos doing there 'thing', the crowd chorally accompanying them on Smells Like Teen Spirit. Then they cut straight into Highway To Hell with John Mahon sliding in and adding a pounding backbeat. Just before the close of the number to signal their sets end, Davey Johnstone emits a bolt of electric lightening to rock it out...and then rock into The Bitch is Back. No nonsense intro, take the crowd by the scruff and shake them to their vitals. Playing to a festival crowd is a challenge for any artist, spotted on the field are here tonight, gone later tonight type clientele. But if you get it right you got them for life. Did Elton get any lifers after this one? You're damn sure he did and none will want parole either.

The setlist was up tempo, attitudinal with no hint of over confidence. Grey Seal, the first of many non-hits that didn't have anyone spending a penny, mixed funky with spunky to give a hunky groove. The break on the outro featured a deep holding bassline from Matt Bissonnette, who is really putting his stamp on several of the songs. Not only staying true to the original parts, he's throwing in shapes and colours into the improv areas that are a great addition to the sound. On Philadelphia Freedom he has a very expressive touch and a nice tone on a song that requires such an input. Brilliant.

Interspersed with the album cuts are the hits. If you don't do hit's, there's no 'hit' for the crowd. So when Elton lashes them in the crowd go bombastic in their singalongs. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road showing why it's one of the most popular singles of the last 40 years. Even if you don't know it, you know it. Hey Ahab after 3 years in the setlist is still holding steady, but as per any song with Elton and the band, they always keeps developing during it's lifetime in concert. Davey throws in some new licks...where does he keep getting all these new parts to play of the best riff's of the last few years fully developed to full growth, the jam on the outro with the 2Cello's and the percussion thumping is hardcore heaven. When Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding starts up, you can feel the tremble in the crowd. Those who are virgins having such a thing thrust at them are at once apprehensive and giddy with excitement as the magnus opus unfolds before their ears. By songs end tremble has given way to all out uncontrollable vibration as the Elton and the band rock the Isle for many a mile. 

I'm Still Standing before it's even a few seconds old already has Elton 'yeahing'...why is he in agreement with himself? Because he now knows he's in one of those 'moments'. Of which there's been plenty of in 2013. I should know, I saw one of those 'moments' earlier this year. Pulling a big one out of the bag, he nails every line of it with tremendous vocal and finger jabs. The crowd are delighted to take such hits, the expected ones and unforeseen ones. But something unforeseen, a hit with a great knockout win rate, suddenly lands a punch out of the blue that has the for the rewind button. As the outro drew to a close after Davey's blazing hot solo, Elton stopped the jam and bayed the crowd like the Gladiator he is...and the crowd like lions roared back at him 'SATURDAY!!' Rock and roll ain't dead yet...thank God the music is still alive!!! One of those simple inputs but nonetheless a spellbinding adrenaline inducing capture. 

But as unexpected as simple a turn on a familiar song was, an unfamiliar song was expected as the new album was to be promoted. Home Again with it's stripped down band brass, no choir...just the band and singers uniting as one to allow Elton the space and time to ready the crowd for departure. The cleaner arrangement allowed the beautiful piano solo on stage centre to flourish and bloom. But the crowd must depart and they took their cue form the opening notes of Your Song...'you can play it Elton and we're gonna sing it'. And sung it hard they did, when I listened to it I focused on the crowd as if they were the lead and Elton was merely the backing. A role he gladly took up with gusto as he brought proceedings to a mutually satisfactory end.

Elton bowled the crowd over. The performance was mythbusting, stereotype smashing and cliche crushing. He displayed supreme confidence to play to a 'non-Elton' crowd and with that strength of purpose to throw in so many album cuts and a new song. And every single one went down a storm. Mixed in to that already heady cocktail of Tales Of The Unexpected were the surprises and variation twists that can leave possibly even Elton surprised at how he can keep doing it. This Concert Live CD is a must have, it's an excursion through Elton at his playful, determined and energetic best. No MOR here, just R n' R...for life.

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