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Elton John electrifies Covelli Centre in Youngstown, Ohio 2-1-2014

Sir Elton John delivered Rocket Man, Bennie and The Jets, Philadelphia Freedom, and other hits in Youngstown.
Sir Elton John delivered Rocket Man, Bennie and The Jets, Philadelphia Freedom, and other hits in Youngstown.Peter M. Roche

Elton John concert in Youngstown, Ohio 2-1-2014


Can you feel the love tonight?

Sir Elton John tickles the ivories at Covelli Centre in Youngstown.
Sir Elton John tickles the ivories at Covelli Centre in Youngstown.Peter M. Roche

Youngstown, Ohio did yesterday when Elton John dazzled the Covelli Centre with a marathon set that spanned the breadth of his piano-pounding career.

Accompanied by long-time guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson, Sir Elton performed many of his best-known songs from the ‘70s (“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” “The Bitch is Back”) and a smattering of pop gems from the ‘80s (“I’m Still Standing,” “Sad Songs Say So Much”). ‘90s offerings like “Believe” and “The One” were few and far between, but fans didn’t seem to mind. The response to John’s classics oeuvre—all those beautiful ballads and pop rock zingers penned eons ago with lyricist Bernie Taupin—was enthusiastic and consistent.

So let it not be said that the two-plus hour show failed to live up to Elton’s “All the Hits” tour title. Clad in a black suit bedazzled with blue sequins that complemented his shirt (and glasses), the multi-Grammy winning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee (Class of ’94) marked the 40th anniversary of his seminal Goodbye Yellow Brick Road LP by playing most of it—beginning with “Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Candle in the Wind,” and “Grey Seal.”

But John—who’s issued albums in six different decades and landed at least one tune each year on the Billboard Hot 100 from 1970-2000—also rendered a couple songs from his new Capitol album, The Diving Board. Folks may not have been as familiar with “Oceans Away” and “Home Again” as “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” or “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues,” but their reaction was equally warm.

Born Dwight Reginald John in Middlesex, England some sixty years ago (hey, who’s counting anymore), Elton cut his first album at the end of the 1960s and rose to stardom behind the emotional strength and melodic heft of LPs like Honky Chateau, Caribou, Don’t Shoot Me—I’m Only the Piano Player, and Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirty Cowboy. The chameleonic cabaret-rocker embraced the dance rhythms and synth sounds of the ’80s on discs like Too Low for Zero but kept churning out signature piano-driven ballads between soundtracks for blockbuster Disney films (The Lion King).

All told, John’s prolific partnership with the poetic Taupin has produced some fifty Top 40 smashes and notched album sales somewhere north of 300 million.

Sir Elton’s band also included bassist Matt Bissonnette (who’s played with David Lee Roth and ELO), keyboardist / session ace Kim Bullard (Poco, Cheap Trick), and percussionist John Mahon. Each man had his moment in the spotlight, even if John—tinkling away at his Yamaha grand piano—remained the center of attention, knocking out up-tempo fare like “Philadelphia Freedom” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” alongside slower (or more subdued) numbers like “Tiny Dancer” and “Your Song.”

The Rocket Man’s orbit may not bring him ‘round these parts too often anymore (his last Youngstown stop was in 2010), but we’ll take as much Elton as we can get—for as long as we can. Elton was in excellent voice and good spirits on this occasion, and we suspect few fans (if any) were dissatisfied with Saturday’s epic show, left frustrated by the running order, or went home unmoved by the grace and majesty charging the music.