Monday, September 9, 2013

'Where's The Orchestra?' Billy Joel once sang...the following is a review I posted on FB moments after I watched this show at the strange hour of 8 o'clock in the morning. Elton was the headline act, the mutual appreciation by of Elton and the maker of his the tool of his trade was very much in evident. Elton has used the Yamaha for the best part of 20 years, the longest run of any of his piano's. His first piano supplier did not get mentioned in dispatches favourably...
Elton helped celebrate Yamaha's 125th anniversary by doing an all too infrequent style of show. With the wonderful James Newton Howard at the baton, Elton's concert conductor of choice, we were to be treated to five songs from the greatest songbook of this or any other era. The first two songs, Your Song and Tiny Dancer featured the original Paul Buckmaster arrangements tastefully and measurably spruced up by James. As James said himself in the past, the arrangements were intricate parts of the original songs, not after thoughts. So it's with great disappointment that the sound mix was so poor that we never got to hear them fully realised. Especially when they pulled a master stroke and removed the rhythm section and guitar parts and left a wonderful tight link between the the piano and orchestra in the form of up right bass played by Nathan East, for many years the bass player of Eric Clapton. By doing this, we could (or would have!) hear the great brass announcement that James added on the final verse of Tiny Dancer or the dramatic entrance of the low end of the strings on the first chorus. Sorry Seems To Be featured James' own score, again with embellishments of the original. The woodwinds on the chorus perfectly responding to Elton's vocal. 

Then as it was a Yamaha event, it was time to showcase the said piano. For which Elton picked two songs that would give both sides of his Nice And Slow repertoire. I Guess That's Why slid along as smooth as the soulful vocal Elton always finds for it. Where earlier Elton and sixty people had held sway, he was now center stage. But the sound had not lessened, nor the intensity of the moment. Then Rocket Man introduced us a new intro in the new year...a stop start vocal with the piano notes left to hang from the rafters of the auditorium. The piano man was making his stand...needless to say his vocal soared to the same lofty heights. Which at the moment is in its best shape for years. Dexterous with a depth and a flexibility that can wrap itself around the great lyrics. Some final remarks. This is the sort of show Elton should do more of. The sound of Elton and the orchestra without the band caught the moment right. Both parties could exist in their separate worlds while at the same time work in perfect harmony. We don't hear those arrangements organically enough, the surge as the space Elton created in his music is filled with a perfectly fitted layer. James Newton Howard knows Elton's music like the baton he holds. Having played all the early arrangements on the keyboards in the 70's and 80's live not to mention the orchestra tours in days of yore, he can pre-empt any move Elton can make. Possibly even those he hasn't made yet! This show should be toured in this from without delay. I believe that now that from now on every Yamaha showroom from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe will now play a recording of that portion of the show to sell their product...hopefully with the sound corrected!

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