Concert Review: Elton John at Scotiabank Arena (10/23/19)

There was a genuine moment during Elton John’s first of two Toronto shows where the weight of this being the last times the career vagabond will ever be performing in one of his multiple second homes must have hit him hard.

According to a framed poster at the pop-up open all this week, these are the 24th and 25th times for Sir Elton since he graced Maple Leaf Gardens with his outrageous Honky Château presence back in 1972. That was a year before I was born if any of you reading care, a lifetime in music that has seen the flamboyant piano man renounce his sinful ways, get clean and become philanthropic while never completely disavowing the showmanship that has entertained millions over what he figures has been 5,000-plus shows.

I figure if you’re going to have Elton-branded baseball jerseys made up with “25” on the back of them to recognize this local milestone, then this very well may be the last time we see EHJ outside of crate diving at Sonic Boom Records while dropping in on his palatial Caledon estate. It’s been a hectic couple of days for Elton John over and above a once and for all concert tour him and his six-man backing band are roughly in the middle of. So when he removed his oversized green glasses – the 2nd of 3 wardrobe changes – to wipe a tear that had welled up, it felt authentic.

I was surrounded by people mimicking Elton at his most garish gaudiness, but at the heart of all the nonsense is the simple yet powerful message that love is the cure for all without the need to get political in any way. Like how Trump refers to Elton as a BFF, or breakaway Liberal candidate Jody Wilson-Raybould using “I’m Still Standing” at her election celebration Monday night. I would have preferred the young ladies in The Beaches joining him onstage to cover the song they’ve promised to feminize one of these days, but Davey Johnstone and the rest of the instrumental engine behind Elton probably wouldn’t have let him. They were having way too much fun, without even a hint of how this is Show #127 on the #EltonFarewellTour.

Oh that’s right; amidst the pricey knick-knacks at his pop-up, Elton found time for a surprise book signing for new autobiography ME as well as the Raptors’ home opener where I’m sure he received his own blingtastic championship ring. Besides longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin having an intimate art show Alan Cross attended, there was the little matter of a 3-hour tour de force put on by a 72-year-old who sure doesn’t look like he’s ready to call it quits. He didn’t prance around like he surely would have done on his first T.O. trip 47 years ago, but Elton rarely sat still behind his grand piano for very long. Every number seemed to be punctuated by a slamming of the piano lid and playful egging on of the sellout crowd, most of whom I’d bet would say “Shut Up and Take My Money” à la Fry from Futurama for just one more Elton John concert.

If he’s indeed found his Oz at the end of the Yellow Brick Road, this is a hell of a way for him to go out. From the familiar opening chords of “Bennie and the Jets” to shouting “Saturday, Saturday” even though it’s the middle of the week, cripes does Elton John ever have an outrageous amount of hits. And the decidedly older demographic wasn’t ready to pack it in at the 11 PM curfew either, loudly singing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” as the video production credits rolled on the giant video screen. No, the setlist hasn’t really changed since Farewell Yellow Brick Road began. It is strangely appropriate however that Elton and his crackerjack music team play 25 songs, almost as if to commemorate the 25 times Torontonians wished the night would never end.

Gilles LeBlanc

Gilles LeBlanc literally fell into “alternative rock” wayyy back at Lollapalooza 1992, where he got caught in his first mosh pit watching some band named Pearl Jam. Since then, he’s spent the better part of his life looking for music to match the liberating rush he felt that day, with a particular chest-beating emphasis on stuff coming out of his native Canada. It took him awhile, but Gilles now writes feverishly about all things that rock (and or roll) through his ROCKthusiast alter ego.

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