Sir Elton, Up Close and Personal

By Beacon Staff

When Elton John first came to Missoula last September I had a myriad of excuses for missing the show – too expensive, too far, too much hassle – but I was plagued by a nagging sense of regret after missing it. For my boyfriend a similar regret has haunted him since high school when he turned down the opportunity to see Sir Elton and Billy Joel performing together in his hometown of Memphis. So when we found out Elton was coming back just six months later for seconds, the decision to buy tickets was easy.

But last week I was beginning to doubt that choice. As I hustled to get my work done a little early on Friday, drove through slow construction in Pablo and ate a grocery store dinner (half of which I ended up giving to a homeless man on the UM campus pedestrian bridge), it all seemed like a hassle. As I stood in line outside the Adams center before the concert, watching hordes of middle-aged women dressed in boas and sparkly sunglasses chat excitedly, I kept telling myself it would be worth it.

Oh, and it was.

As we went through the security line, a man reached over the rope and tapped my boyfriend on the shoulder. “Can I talk to you when you get through the line?” he asked. I thought we were going to be kicked out. Instead, after asking several questions assessing our Elton fanaticism, the man, a member of Elton’s staff, nonchalantly handed us two front row center tickets. I was so surprised I’m not even sure if I said thank you.

You couldn’t hit a golf ball from our new seats, right in front of the piano, to where our original seats were located – six rows from the rafters. But, as my boyfriend said, we could have spit on Elton John. (We didn’t.)

Even without the lucky seat change, the concert was amazing, and it exceeded any of my original expectations. While I realized that Elton has several rock tunes, I’d always associated him with crooning ballads. The rockin’ atmosphere, especially from older musicians, blew me away.

I think Missoulian reporter Jamie Kelly got it right in his review: “John stormed through his repertoire of songs, spanning nearly four decades of music. And never once did the music seem cheap, forced or hackneyed. At some level, I anticipated a Vegas-style letdown, watching some old performer far past his prime give me some “My Way” schmaltz straight out of the geriatric playbook. Nope. Smoking piano solos. Authenticity. World class, just like the musician.”

Elton John, in my mind, is part of an elite group of musicians – those that transcend generations, and without theatrics or fireworks can repeatedly awe you with unworldly musical talent. True superstars. I had the same feeling after watching a Tom Petty concert in high school. Friday night it didn’t matter that Elton’s first international hit came 14 years before I was even born. I left in awe. After all, I’d just experienced one of the world’s best musicians and one of the luckiest nights in my life.

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