Wednesday, December 10, 2014

'Elton & The Band Live At The 3Arena Dublin 9th December 2014 - Review'

The 3Arena. Situated right beside the River Liffey, a name derived from the word 'life'. Fitting then that life should be celebrated by the greatest live act currently on the circuit and ably concelebrated by the ablest of able cohorts.

As wind entered the could well have been real considering the wonky weather pouring forth from the heavens, or worse still from down below...we were feeling the effects of ethereal forces for sure. If the dimmed lights at the start of Funeral For A Friend emitted the feeling that we were in the middle of some sort of seance attempting to make contact with the afterlife then that solemnity was quickly dulled as the lights found full power when real 'live' life became a certainty. The Fantastic Captain with the ultimate name tag on a jacket began an opening salvo that quickly developed into a barrage. 

Like a lot of things on the night we were returning to old ground. One of these was the rightfully restored placing of FFF/LLB at the start of the set. The five piece band sound has also been restored to fasten shut the 'sound'. The monsterpiece has many facets but as would be another part of the show the fields of foreign lands...and worlds...would be visited, the Tibetan cymbals from John being incredibly ceremonial during the opening lines. Band version of Candle In The Wind...chocked full of those Nigel fills that harmoniously beat...the heavy bass line from Matt on the final chorus essential here too. All The Girls Love Alice with the heavy hammering from Elton on the verses is tempered on the chorus when his gradually ascending vocal is masterfully countered by Matt's opposing descending chords. The riff from Davey with it's karate like chops. And a sexy video backdrop. So much going on so far...and it's only four songs in. From just one album.

Levon...with the sharply angled Buckmaster arrangement skillfully negotiated by Kim...ends as we would have wanted it to. The way Elton's being doing it for the last number of years. Getting longer and longer it seems with no end in sight. Elton standing up, eyes not for the keys but the challenge them and to be challenged. Matt's licks at this time, if isolated, would be a beginners guide (for the already very good) on why a bass player is not only needed but essential. But how could the extra stretch be elongated even more. Just as a natural end might have been arrived at he just takes it down a notch, not stopping but steadying things with a groove that is constant (Nigel & John are in the zone here as they say), Davey bubbling above the storm clouds as Elton dives once more back into the slip stream until a halt is called. Incredible version here...2015's edition I suspect is not to be missed.

We've seen the showman side of Elton..both in terms of playing and gesticulating. Step up the humanitarian. His dedication at the start of Tiny Dancer to little Lily Mae and to the fundraisers for the charity single in 2012 to help in her fight to 'eff cancer' was humbling for everyone there and most of all Elton I'd suspect. But his humility should go in tandem with pride for himself (in terms of allowing the song to be used for such a great cause and for helping to write it of course). It always gets a great reaction when played...great just became the greatest in this neck of the woods from this time on I suspect.

As a poster held up said, Believe In Elton. Yet again when he does (possibly) my favourite EJ/BT song it never fails to resonate. Timeless and timely. The added exotic feel of faraway places return with the Tablas from John. Kim again found the deep end of the Buckmaster arrangement and pumped it up for all it's worth. Goodbye Yellow Brick of the greatest '45s' of all treated with precision here. Davey's essential Leslie guitar sound is to the forefront and Nigel's classic parts are also noted. As are the harmonies. Aficionados of this classic sound hearing GYBR for the first time are not disappointed. Nor was anybody with the luminous video tale of Elton's colourful career.

Rocket often a source of extended workouts at the end has now been bookended with something extraordinary at the start. This is another one for the newbies to see why he's the only one is his field that can attempt and succeed at this venture...Elton alone at the keyboard plundering his way through his extensive back knowledge of music. So no surprise he switches from Bach style Baroque to Bordelloish Boogie in one beat. Time and cultures all seamlessly mixed. Music across Centuries and Continents conjured up. But all that meant the outro had a lot to live up to. And it did. His progressive style and gradual attaining of higher moments was another example of faraway places being within his...and then ours...grasp. The big screen almost 3Dlike with it's vision of Earth from space like a genuine view from Mars. Something to note during this voyage of discovery, a voyage that Matt has been on since he joined the band. The discovery of Elton's handiwork and his genuine exploration of it. Not for the first time during the show but during this trail out part he stood behind Elton to marvel and to tap into his vibe. No wonder he's always bouncing around the stage for joy!

Hey Ahab has become such a rock beast that nobody unfamiliar with it dares ups and leaves for the 'pitstop'. It's aggressive, bolshie and hard. Elton's piano pounding percussive nature knocked lumps out of it. I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues culminated in one of rocks most cohesive, knowing relationships. Elton with his big lung engorging finish responding to bluesy licks from Davey as both timed their responses accordingly with with each other's exclamations. Mid show a brief restbite is required. Energy to be reclaimed for the next part of the journey. The One is ideal here...Elton taking one of his most naturally flowing melodies, putting an equally natural strong vocal on top, and holding court for the transfixed crowd. Intensity all in One go. If people think Your Song has been flogged to death in concert, then chew on this one. The echo of the crowd singing it is enough to tell me it has another bit left to run in it. Quite a bit of bite. 

With that musical equivalent of the three Shredded Wheat on board it was time to rev it up again. Burn Down The Mission with it's multi switching movements of broken rhythms to all out banging rock leaves no time for inhalation of air. Nigel's batterdrum finish to Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me in complete contrast to his melodious accompaniment during the preceding sections of the song. Octane at a high dose. Which some's up the period from The Bitch Is Back right through to Crocodile Rock. Thoughts of anything other than what's happening on stage are impossible. This is the moment. Elton still has the should we. Your Sister Can't Twist with it's faux Beach Boys backing vocals present and correct is supported by Davey's driving guitar and Kim's right side of cheesy organ. Saturday Night's Alright falls into the category of paradise restored. The opening is the first example of that...the proper drums and guitar intro, the stop start rhythm finding gear when Matt's shimmy on the bass and Elton ripples the keys to signal full on onslaught. But where Levon might have heralded a breakdown, we get it now at the end of this one. Looking for vocal reinforcements, he goads the crowd to chant, so they chant 'Saturday' in excelsis. Almost worshiplike...both for song and singer. As for Crocodile Rock...the song where everyone in the crowd can be a band member...just for one song. Are we done though? Not quite...

To let us go home with some semblance of calm...not possible I think...he treats us to one of his favourites. Circle Of Life/Can You Feel The Love Tonight? is a combination of restorative emotions and positive messages. Simple as that, to hear it is to know it.

After 100 shows this year, the tour ends. Not by happenstance in Dublin, but more out of design. Energy levels were incredibly high throughout with no lessening of delivery. Elton is in tip top live form at the moment and the band are so tapped into what's happening on stage that when...not if of course...they go back into the studio and put in there what they give out on stage then all bets are off as to what can be achieved. As 2014 suggests...2015 promises anything and everything.

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding 
Bennie and the Jets 
Candle in the Wind 
All the Girls Love Alice 
Tiny Dancer 
Philadelphia Freedom 
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 
Rocket Man 
Hey Ahab 
I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues 
The One 
Your Song 
Burn Down the Mission 
Sad Songs (Say So Much) 
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word 
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me 
The Bitch Is Back 
I'm Still Standing 
Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n Roll) 
Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting 
Crocodile Rock
Circle Of Life/Can You Feel The Love Tonight?

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