It was reported recently that Brazil was still in a state of mourning. Due to the recent incident where their football team left the stadium during the first half of an international match. The semi final defeat by Germany over a year ago my have punched a hole in the hearts, but Brazilians are quick healers. Full fitness restored, they're back in the game and samba(ing) to boot.
Anybody who saw the recent festival shows in the US over the last year or two will not have failed to notice the inertia of large numbers of the crowd. Age demographics or just a plain dose of being 'quite blase into the bargain' as Fred Trueman might have said possible factors. None of that down Rio way. Take note further up the continent. I've mentioned before on this blog how the South American fans are a pretty unique bunch. The music, with no other baggage, is to the forefront. What an appropriate place to unofficially start the dropping of the curtain. Last time in Rio and all that jazz...the three 'Rock In Rio' sets he's done in 2011 & 2013 culminating here and now are classics. Clocking in at would you believe 90 minutes this final act in the treble has bookended the two earlier volumes.
Before anything happens we heard Davey kickstarting his Flying 'V', like a motorcycle with a sticky kick start. Once off and running, Elton power kicks with no mercy. The Bitch Is Back gets the Brazilians up and at 'em. Sound is from the proper 'mix' so the piano encoats everything. The jam on Bennie positively sheens here, Davey takes a more authoritative lead on guitar here also. Speaking as Elton often does with a 'local' accent, the band voices show no signs of any influence of the dialect. The backing vocals on Candle In The Wind aren't so much stitched together, more like weaved with no obvious stitching visible. Levon as it crosses the touchline from song to jam has a terrific waver of the arrangement from Kim, an up and down movement. The added dips and quips are a foretelling of the jolly riffs that Elton expounds just a moment or several later. John's Amazonian accompaniment on conga's unites all elements of the culture. Occasional distorted guitar from Davey criss crosses back and forth over Elton's piano lines until the eyes and ears...the unbroken tendrils of nearly 45 years...combine, twist around each other and get into the groove. Nigel, never one for the messy drumming style, shows that he can get down and dirty just as good as the filthiest of them until he clears up his own mess and slaps his trademark stamp blem all over proceedings.
Philadelphia Freedom tonight has a leap out moment. I've been eulogising (not sermoniing, I'll leave that to the more self righteous) about how good Matt is. But listening in the small hours as it was here, he gave a positively sublime performance here. The song has loads of space; its time and it's pace leave plenty of room for a musician of his calibre to be heard. But anybody can be heard. But not everybody can do what he does. Every time he spots a gap in the defence he dances in and weaves around avoiding all the tackles. His fingers fleet of foot. Some incredible bass playing here, it will need several listens back to garner exactly each and every move he accomplished.
But then the hush descends, a kind that is normal down there when the striker steps up for the crucial penalty kick. Breath baited abounds, Elton's measured and deliberate step up to the keyboard and his progression through it. Like said runner, he gathers pace and as pacey as any winger he still has the technique in his armoury to throw in a shuffle to deceive the goalie. Back of the net! The outro is like a victory run around the stadium. The world is certainly the cup...but the cup has to be filled.
If you want to intoxicate a Brazilian crowd anything with unlimited proof won't match Skyline Pigeon. If Elton didn't do it, then he'd be like Frank Sinatra in Australia in 1974. Locked in until he broke. And boy did it break. The band version of Skyline Pigeon I could listen to all day. Along with the massed ranks of Brazilian Eltonites. Hymnal in origins, the rhythm section with added tasteful twist as a later modification is a wonderfully weighted combo. It's an emotive moment; the empathy between crowd and performer as Elton announces it's the last time he'll play it in Brazil is more than tangible. It's audible as it's sung. The local dialect discarded in favour of the latter day Pinner phrasing. Is this moment important? Come back in ten years and you'll know how significant it was.
With the game won, it's time for the mazy dribbles. Sad Songs is foot on the ball time, roll it around and then stroke back and forth. I'm Still Standing with Davey on Epiphone for a change...last seen on the song in the same parish...is indeed the victory chant for team and fans. Long after Elton had left the stage, the crowd were still pumped up by Saturday Night but left feeling nostalgic with Your Song. Two facets of the same face. Elton had left the Rio stage...but the Rio audience will never leave Elton.