good morning everyone! Your HIC is slightly more rested today after a long flight to DC. And as promised, here’s a hoddle on fitzie’s California trip.
There were two reasons why I visited California. The first was to visit my parents. The second was to see Elton John live at Dodger Stadium (a Christmas gift I gave to my dad last year).
What a long year it was, too! But well worth the wait, including the 90 minutes it took to park at Dodger Stadium.
I’ve often said that there are times in one’s life when music is introduced in a pivotal moment, where it grips you in some transformative way. Elton John’s music came into mine in high school.
I don’t remember how it happened. I only remember the long drives my mom and I would take to see my grandmother at the senior’s rehabilitation clinic. Those were trying times. As much as I hated, and possibly feared, the physical manifestation of life deteriorating, I wanted to be there to support both generations of my family.
Sometimes I played music on my iPod. One time, again I don’t know how, Someone Saved My Life Tonight came on. It was a dark, rainy night in California. I remember the rain splashing on the windshields, and the sound of the wipers mechanically brushing off the dampness.
That deep, richly melancholic piano riff carrying the painful memories of Elton John’s dark youth penetrated the darkness of mine at the time. During a time when I faced my own teenage heartache and angst and partly blamed myself for my once-invincible grandmother’s rapid deterioration.
For roughly four minutes at a time, it felt like that song was all I had.
Fitzie’s track of the day, part one: Someone Saved My Life Tonight, by Elton John
And that song led to discovery - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Honky Cat, Mona Lisas and Madhatters, Skyline Pigeon, Saturday Night’s Alright, I’m Still Standing.
And also Levon. I like Elton John’s sad songs the most. Sad songs say so much, he once said.
When Elton John relaunched his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour I resolved to get tickets. Yes, for myself too. But also for my parents, who grew up on his music. And who love his music. They like the more poppy and lovey songs: Bennie and the Jets, Philadelphia Freedom, Can You Feel the Love Tonight.
And I remember, as a young, young kid, my parents would blast Crocodile Rock in the car during road trips.
Now, like I said, it took my parents and me a long time to get into Dodger Stadium. We ended up getting there about 30 minutes late and missed about seven songs.
Fitzie’s track of the day, part two: Take Me to the Pilot, by Elton John
Luckily, for me, I didn’t miss either of my favourite songs. We found our seats quite high up in right field as Elton and his band were jamming to Take Me to the Pilot. And as I was cooling down from a stressful drive through the cavernous parking lot, I heard those melancholic keys reverberating around the stadium.
Elton John’s voice at times didn’t always make it to the outer rings of the throngs of fans. But you could feel his music. Literally. Every time he pressed down in the lower range to move that classic riff of Someone Saved Me Life Tonight, the stadium shook. It was a magical feeling.
And then he went to Levon.
I’ve noted before there are some artists who command an instrument like no one I’ve seen before: Eric Clapton, Christian McBride, Clem Burke and Brian May.
Never have I seen anyone hold such mastery of the piano like Elton John. Every word he sung, every note he hit felt so heavy. So deeply transfixed I was on two songs that meant everything to me in my teenage years. Two songs I still listen to often.
I’ve listened to Levon hundreds of times. But it felt like a new song to me on Saturday.
The image of him slumped over the piano at the end of the song is one that I will long remember. Was it because of emotion? Exhaustion?
He then stood up, slammed down the top flap of the piano and raised his arms, recognizing his own greatness.
Fifty-six thousands fans roared in return.
The concert went by far too quickly. Even in the brief interlude where Billie Jean King and the Dodgers owner presented Elton John with a $1 million check in support of his AIDS foundation.
It’s hard to believe this was his farewell. His voice is better today than it was 50 years ago. It’s taken on this thick, soulful tone that seemed less baritone and more Aretha Franklin.
And, as a piano player, there is no one on the planet who comes near to him.
But when he put on his bedazzled Dodgers robe and cap, and when he introduced Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as the show’s closer, it did feel like farewell. A farewell to Dodger Stadium? Definitely it seems. Touring? Likely.
Selfishly, I hope this is not a farewell to performing. I hope instead he dramatically scales it back to perform maybe six shows a year, a la Clapton, and dub it a ‘tour’. How many times as fans can we conjure an artist away from his family? How selfish could we be? A dilemma, for sure.
But if this is Elton John’s farewell, then he leaves as a man standing on top of the world.
Fitzie’s track of the day, part three: Levon, by Elton John
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