Elton John

Elton is at the piano

Quick, name me your favourite EJ tune. Did he play it? Probably – the set lasted for two and a half hours and he covered practically everything. About the time I said to Geoff it has to be Crocodile Rock in the encore, he played it and then Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting and THEN the encore–Your Song and The Circle of Life. The complete set list is at the bottom of the post, for those who are interested.

The show wasn’t flashy in any great way – it was simply all about Elton. He came out in his signature sequinned long tunic style jacket with Madman Across The Water emblazoned across the back.  Cameras to two large side screens on either side of the stage focused mostly (let’s say 75% of the time)  on Elton. After each and every song he got up from the piano and walked toward the crowd with arms extended seemingly saying, “Don’t you just love me” and gesturing more applause, more applause — the crowd complied. The back-up singers and band were great. The drummer, Nigel Olsson, has been with him since the start and the lead, Davey Johnstone, for 43 years. They were fantastic.  Elton can still play an incredible piano. (A camera right on the end of the keyboard showed him playing. It puts to bed any thought that you need big hands to play – his are short and stubby!) While he can no longer hit the high notes, his voice at the low end of the spectrum has gotten richer and deeper with time. He knew when to sing and when to let the audience play their part. He didn’t even attempt the “la la la la la” chorus of  Crocodile Rock but simply held out the mike to the audience to fill it in, which they gladly did.

The crowd was largely ex-pat and relatively sedate.  They stayed in their seats, jumping up only at the end of songs to clap and cheer.  Elton was happy with their response and at one point thanked us and said that he didn’t expect this great of an audience in Shanghai.   Perhaps he thought the Chinese would have had little experience with his music, created largely in the 70’s.  He didn’t have to worry though.  These fans knew every word and throughout the show, were singing with him .  Everyone, that is, except the woman sitting one seat over from me.  She brought along a 4 page song sheet, if you can believe it, and used the flashlight from her phone to light the lyrics, as she followed along.  Perhaps there was a quiz later?  Not sure why anyone would go to a show to read a sheet of lyrics.   It was a great evening, just the same, and even more special experiencing it in Shanghai.

Geoff’s observations:

  1. Now I know I am getting on in years and I have been to a lot of concerts in my time. Frank Zappa, The Stones, Dylan, Pink Floyd, Springsteen, The Beach Boys etc. etc. and now Elton John. It seems to me that at those concerts, people went to hear the music/band. Last night I could not believe the number of people who were up and down the aisles and back and forth with beer and coloured wavy toys. It was a constant flow of people. Sit down and listen.
  2. Terry says sedate – I say they were lucky to get such a good concert, given that Elton couldn’t have gotten any energy from them. For instance the couple beside us – in their forties and Asian, were so taken with everything, they forgot to applaud until the very end. Perhaps it was because they didn’t understand the words.
  3. Terry has mentioned the woman with the song sheet – but REALLY? A SONGSHEET? Did she think we were going to be singing Christmas Carols? And the guys next to her are both looking at the sheet and not watching the concert.
  4. When I first started going to concerts we didn’t do the swaying match thing. In fact I don’t think I ever did that or why it was done, but at least I understand that the crowd was usually in sync. Now they do it with their cell phones, but here is a tip people: No one on your side of the arena can see which way you are swaying with it since the screen is pointed away from you. It looks ridiculous – a couple of thousand people all swaying at different times.
  5. Speaking of cell phones, there were sure a lot of them on during the performance.
  6. I will admit I learned something too. One cannot record a concert on a cell phone – but I learned it by recording about 10 seconds of audio, not trying to record the entire encore like the two guys standing in front of us.
  7. I thought towards the end I was at a Canucks’ or a Lions’ game – people were leaving long before Crocodile Rock which was long before the encore. I guess they were bothered by the strobe lights which were often pointed in the crowd’s direction. (It was so bad during The Bitch is Back that I thought we would have to leave to avoid Terry getting a migraine, but it did get better). Anyway, why would you leave a good concert early?
  8. And now I will answer my last question. You leave a Shanghai concert early because you know, unlike the 15000 or so other expats, that it is now 10:50 and you are 30 minutes walk from the subway and the subway going in your direction shuts down at 11:00 and and so you have to take the one going in the other direction to another line that could get you home, only to find that it too has shut down and you have to find a taxi to take you home, but they really don’t want to go that far so they turn you over to someone else to take you. Conversely, you could have taken one from right outside the arena which would have cost you 200 yuan instead of the 65 you eventually had to pay.

Set List

  1. The Bitch Is Back
  2. Bennie and the Jets
  3. Grey Seal
  4. Levon
  5. Tiny Dancer
  6. Believe
  7. Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
  8. Philadelphia Freedom
  9. Candle in the Wind
  10. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
  11. Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
  12. Hey Ahab
  13. I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
  14. Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
  15. Honky Cat
  16. Sad Songs (Say So Much)
  17. Daniel
  18. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
  19. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
  20. Are You Ready for Love
  21. I’m Still Standing
  22. Crocodile Rock
  23. Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting


  1. Your Song
  2. Circle of Life

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