Amway Center, Orlando, FL • March 10, 2012
I remember when I was 15, riding on a band’s tour bus through Kansas. Everyone was quiet, lost in our own sad thoughts, when Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” came on over the radio. One by one we all started singing along, until none of us could remember what we were so down about just moments before. Ah, the road. It suddenly felt like home.
Ok, so that didn’t really happen to me, but I’ve watched that glorious scene in Almost Famous so many times that if feels as though it did.
Hearing Elton John perform this song in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,000 was my motivation for finally heading out to one of his shows on this, his Greatest Hits Tour. Chances were good that I’d get to have my spine tingled by this and a number of other decade-spanning classics. With these hopes in mind, I made my way to my seat — way, way, WAY up where only rocket men could reach.
As the lights dimmed and a pair of spotlights fell on a pair of cellists, I had just enough time to comment, “I thought there was no opener,” before my girlfriend excitedly told me, “It’s 2Cellos!” The Croatian duo, known for their Apocalyptica-like aggressive string instrument covers, ran through a handful of popular hits — most awesomely, a sinister take on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” — before segueing into the headliner’s opening number, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”
With even the view-challenged behind-the-stage seats filled up, my anticipation for mass sing-alongs was great, and so — greater still — was my disappointment and confusion when these campfire moments failed to become more than mild candle flames. “Bennie & the Jets,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Rocket Man” — come on, people! Hoots, hollers, and applause churned up at each song’s beginning and end, but there were no spontaneous bursts in between. The crowd seemed more alive for 2Cellos, whose performance of “Highway to Hell,” by the way, would’ve made AC/DC jealous!
Sir Elton, despite the lack of energy on our part, delivered each song exactly as he and Bernie Taupin wrote ’em — cutting back only on a bit of the flair, for the sake of time (30 songs he pounded out in three hours time!). Not his voice, his piano fingers, nor his gracious smiles have weakened one iota in his soon-to-be 65 years. Without fail he even jumped from his bench to smile and bow after every song.
When “Tiny Dancer” came along, and it did so pretty early in the night, mountains may not have crumbled, but I did get choked up. How can that song NOT cause some tears to well up? If you can resist even the most mild feeling of beautiful heartache upon hearing that song sung by that voice than you MUST be a robot.
“Thank you for being such an enthusiastic crowd,” John told Orlando before launching into his encore (“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this song,” he admitted), “Your Song,” and FINALLY the sing-along came.
Elton John: www.eltonjohn.com