Live At The Bud Walton Arena Fayetteville, 4th June 2013
This blog, as I've stated before, is a great fan of John Jorgenson. The guy is a virtuoso and is just as at home in a band. His style is terrific, with great deftness on the acoustic instruments he plays. But for me the biggest attraction is the 'American steel' that's endemic in his electric style, which when it's intertwined with his rock influences, the result is overwhelming. All traits that are vital to Elton's music as so much of it over the years had that country vibe in the background. So no better man than John to bring it home, as they say over there.
When news reached me that the Walmart edition of The Diving Board featured a 90 minute DVD of a show that John played in June this year on I was more than excited. I want it now, I said!! Luckily for me at the time a fellow Eltonite was on his holliers over there and hey presto a copy of said DVD came to be in my hand. What a joy this one is. John was filling in for Davey around this time as guitar god was taking some time out, so his 'St. Peter' stepped in to patrol the pearly gates with Elton.
The premise of this show is all the Walmart employees from all over the world get the chance to go on one big jolly for the weekend at the companies HQ. I think it's supposed to be some sort of cooperate get together, but they're not going to release any DVDs of that, now are they?! So we get this instead. As part of the weekends entertainment, they lay on a big act to amuse the store workers of the world. This year they got Elton. As you do. A draw for tickets was the only means to get in. Would Elton be able to 'wow' a crowd a day trippers into believers?! With a 'steely' determination, he was gonna give it his best shot...
The in house camera's capture this show perfectly, when Elton soloed you weren't looking at someone gawking at their partners phone at the amazing snap they just took. Timing is everything...and John has it to burn. And burn it up on The Bitch Is Back for the first song, playing Davey's Explorer with the same venom he does. John used Davey's guitars with Rick Salazar's help...no messin' about, he can pick up another artists tools of choice and make it his own. Bennie pounded away, Elton working up the crowd of mostly Elton show newbies. Give them what they want and hit it with them hard. So that they don't get up. And Elton was walloping them with all the tricks, getting the crowd responding to his 'Bennie' call. Levon had some sweet rhythm lines from John, sweetness that bittered up on the jam when he matched each Elton chop pound for pound. John was in the groove alright. And lovin' it!
Tiny Dancer was incredible. This is a must see and must hear. The stuff John did on the Fender was like a text book guitar manual in sign language. First and foremost he put the 'steel' stamp all over it. But it's the way he did it that was stunning. Minute tone changes, from line to line, coupled with tweeks here and there on the whammy bar gave the song a sound scape of 'Americana' with countless layers. The virtuoso banded it all together with an edgy chime. His fingers with the knowledge of Elton's music. If that wasn't enough to make your hairs stand up, they were still standing by the end of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Because if nothing had been played, the effect would have been the same. John playing Davey's Captain Fantastic Les Paul. Holy moly...and he still found time to make sure all the Lesley effects were all ship shape and on parade. Beautiful!!
Rocket Man with it's lung bursting intro that Elton does now had the audience applauding...literally seconds into it. Getting a wave off some of the casual fans at the end of a song can be tough going, so I guess Elton was doing something right at this stage. John with big acoustic chords, like huge brush strokes. Sweeping over the venue in a similar way to Kim's trippin' out synth lines. The crowd were high as a kite...Crocodile Rock opened with some sneaky chords of Mexican Vacation trying to get in on the act. Elton teasing the crowd...but nobody knew of course. Saturday Night was it's usual in yer face delivery, but Elton knew this was a special show...for the audience and for the trusty stand in. Elton's rollicking solo on the outro with John putting down a grinding back beat of the familiar riff in turn led Elton to lay down a challenge of 'Go John'. This was John's rock out moment. They locked eyes as John did a rasping solo that was full of flashy, string bending licks. Elton's key's being challenged by John's strings for supremacy. When you hear it you make up your own mind who won...I wouldn't like to have a casting vote on that one!!
Circle Of Life solo is always a spellbinding moment. Elton had the crowd in his pocket by now, so when they thought they'd seen all his glory he showed why he's the number one live performer. Voice, piano and quality songwriting. Their shopping list had been ticked off. But one final item was needed, the one that you don't have to put on your list. Because it comes instinctively. Your Song was the standard we've come to expect recently...excellent...but the little treat on it, like the one at the checkouts in the old days, was John playing electric guitar on it. Every emotion seemed to be evoked from his playing on it, the weeping of it was yearning. It could have strayed over to melancholy but right the end on the final chorus it exuded a release of joy. A release of joy that Elton displayed when he gave John a special hug at the end. A special show with a special guest.
This a terrific bonus that Walmart put out for The Diving Board. It may seem on paper another greatest hits show. Which it is. But like all shows from the last few years it's a scorcher. But the real sun burn...like the one on a Les Paul maybe...is from John. The variations he brings in and overall sound he has is tremendous. Elton enjoyed having him there, John enjoyed being there and I enjoyed seeing them all together. This is a must have show.
The Bitch Is Back
Bennie and the Jets
Candle in the Wind
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
I'm Still Standing
Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting
Circle of Life