You know that period between Christmas and New Year when the telly companies decide to fill up that important schedule gap between Indiana Jones And The Old Artifact Snatch and Morecombe And Wise sometime in the last century festive special with a review of the year. Unless you've been taking part in a Sleeping Beauty contest all year then it's a rehash even most recycling plants wouldn't find of any value. So rather than get lost in that dead zone and to look back on something that anyone reading here would find far more interesting than any of that let's pop the cork and spirit out the ghosts of 2014.
I had intended to do something similar last year but I'll be honest with you. My Elton mojo 12 month's ago had taken a right battering, storm force doesn't even go there. The final straw...a large bale of them dropped from a great height...was the vile, disgusting attempts to wreck Davey's blog on Musinq. Totally unforgivable and shameful. Like a Santa doesn't exist moment. Those responsible should have developed bad stoops at this stage due to their heads being in a permanent state of shame hanging. If not then their necks must be harder than a jockey's...anyway, we won't dwell on such characters at this time. I think this year has been fabulous for the Eltonites. There always seems to be so much going on, the touring ropes everyone into the mix. Sporadic hard copy releases keep things ticking over on that front. It's ended though on a terrific high, especially for me after last Tuesday night. But it was only the final act of some incredible scenes that began with some dramatic moments. On stage and on disc we've had a full year. Brimming with goodies...even the tastiest gum drops aren't up to this mark.
I'll start with Elton's touring arm. Or both arms of course. Starting in North America in February we began to see more and more GYBR tracks being added that at one point we had 10 different songs from the album being played live (though not all in the same setlist). For one glorious moment it looked as if we may have got the full...or as near as full as Elton would do...album being played. But alas we could see it on the horizon but the rainbow seemed well up the road. We bade a Goodbye to I've Seen That Movie after a brief cameo. Captured on film, it's power still intact after all the years in hiatus.
Elton went back to South America for another tour, primarily in Brazil this time. The fans down there are unreal, I watch them on Facebook with packs of passion pitching up at the venues. Pretty special when he plays Skyline Pigeon down there, the band version is the one to savour. Summer time and the World Cup kind of dominated things for me during June and July. However one standout show was Elton's first festival appearance in the US at Bonnarroo. This is becoming a new thing for Elton in the last few years, taking the last slot at these multi act affairs. Broadcast live in sound and vision it also gives the people in the venue a chance to peer into Eltonworld and see what the fuss is all about. Doubters will have manners put on them. Waverers will be tipped over to the light side. As for the converted...another preaching to never did anyone any harm. This performance is highly recommended though Someone Saved My Life Tonight is a bit raggedy at times. A Glastonbury appearance is surely only a matter of time.
The Autumn leg of the tour continued the great work on stage, musically. One highlight from that lofty position he holds went beyond music. His speech from the stage in St. Petersburg on LGBT rights in Russia again was heard at first hand by the converted but those who need to hear I get the feeling had the mufflers on that day. I suspect though if they didn't hear the speech they felt the vibrations of it. And will continue to do so. And so the tour ended in my parish and the curtain came down on another 100 or so shows. In both hemisphere's and in all weathers. Indoors, outdoors, like the Wombles Elton and the band keep rolling around the globe. All the reviews took the same hymn sheet and whilst putting their local dialect stamp on it the same mantra was preached time and time again.
Some great setlist moments during the year need to be mentioned here. Rocket Man in late 2013 featured one of the 'Dream' sections from TDB as an intro. That asepct has continued this year but has drifted away from that original idea (as did so many things from that album, more later). It's now developed into a multi coloured shop of swapping moods and shades. A great song now bookended by some great playing at the start and finish. Levon has progressed beyond anything we could (but Elton of course can!) imagine. The outro getting progressively longer over the last few years has now subtly had another avenue connected onto it. Expect an exciting journey down this route in 2015. Elton did well over 40 different songs this year, nearly two different setlists if you please. So the complaint Elton doesn't mix it up much kind of gets an Exocet through it's main doors. Elton's a crowd pleaser and a promoters dream. If he turns up and does what the paying public want then all is well. The demand is there...
We've had some great treats on the disc front...and the movie front. The showing of the Million Dollar Piano in the cinemas was a great idea though in practice the sound aspect of it was a joke. For the next presentation of this type that anomaly has to rectified or it's not worth bothering about. The dvd release is far better on that issue. The GYBR 40th could and should have had more. The de luxe box was nicely presented (looks even better signed!) but the covers disc didn't seem to make any friends. The Hammersmith Odeon show had minimal work done to it compared to the bootleg version. Still though, next year is the CF 40th. Is there anything left in that cannon to fire off?! The announcement of The Pillars Of Hercules documentary is another triumph. Simply put, fans have been crying out for this type of project for decades. The band in the early days along with those in the control room were at the coalface of finishing off the creations that are the terrific songs that Elton and Bernie had manufactured. An amoeba crawling out of a petri dish in a laboratory hearing Rocket Man on the radio for the first time would grasp that concept. So we're gonna to get to hear in greater detail than ever before about the magic that went down in getting down the magic on disc.
The year was in it's dying embers when it was given a large dose of accelerant. The news we've been waiting for...or should I say...we knew would arrive. A when, not an if. A new band album to be recorded in February. If that's not enough to get the juices at flood levels, then you must be experiencing a severe drought. Then again, I suppose we've been all to the desert and back since The Captain And The Kid in 2006. This camel doesn't need to be led to the water, I can smell it a year off. Never in a million years did I think we'd be getting to hear such a gift so soon or even for that matter ever again. The previous producer has got his P45. For that I am delighted.
As far back as September '13 I said the current producer's era was over. The proof is now before us. The band are back to their proper positions in life. Again, our friend the amoeba will be crawling in joy or whatever it is a one celled creatures do when ecstatic. The great thing about having this equilibrium restored is that all possibilities are on and all bets are off. Shackles broken, freedom fields to be explored. Every possible avenue of creativity is an option and readily available. To be plundered and paraded. Davey's remarks on his blog that the album will rock is telling. For a number of reasons.
Firstly, take Hey Ahab. It's one of the longest surviving new songs of the 21st Century. The slow, lethargic example on The Union was given the belting of it's life on stage and is now an essential part of the setlist. Again, there are so many why's as to the reason for this. The main one...it's rocks the be***** out of everyone. And that's what grabs attention in an arena, coliseum, stadium or field. So a new album that rocks will surely have commercial potential and should garner some sort of life on the live circuit for longer than the initial promo release period. Which takes us nicely back to this news which is truly a moment to savour. Hopefully the biggest asset of Elton's current live incarnation can be siphoned off in copious large chunks, an environment rich in natural resources of light, power and energy. Whereas darkness, lifelessness and lethargy prevailed on the couple of discs up to this point under the old regime. A genesis moment has occurred...not lambs lying down on Broadway...but the start of a whole new world.
Elton and the collective souls of the band have great musical spatial awareness of each other on stage. With this new world comes a chance to make history.The three older members of the band, Nigel, Davey and John have already done that on disc. It's now time for Kim and Matt to have their turn in the studio. They bring a whole new dynamic to proceedings, anyone who been to a concert since 2010 will know this. They'll bring something new, not borrowed and won't make us blue. And a marriage made in heaven. 2015 has so much potential it's like energy about to be created. Though scientifically that's impossible (though the previous producer accomplished the feat of destroying energy), Eltonifically it can be done. And it'll live and breath...