Elton John (Sherry Kaniuga)
"It's a little bit funny, this feeling inside..."
It's been over four decades since a 17-year-old Bernie Taupin wrote a little poem beginning with those words, then handed it over to Elton John to put to music (which he did in about 20 minutes flat). But ever since, each person in the audience at an Elton John concert has likely felt a similar funny feeling inside to the one Taupin was describing in their classic hit Your Song. Anticipation, excitement and genuine joy at being in the same space as the musical icon - I know that's how I felt, and I'm sure I wasn't alone.
The 13,000 ticket-holders at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Saturday night leapt to their feet at the first glimpse of Elton as he climbed the steps to the stage. He wore a black suit adorned with a gorgeous pink and red floral motif, plus a skull and sword on the back. After greeting the crowd he sat down at the piano and got right to business, kicking off the two hour, 45-minute set and showing off his incredible talent with "Funeral for a Friend / Love
I wasn't expecting to hear "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" so early in the set, but it came next and, after all, it was Saturday night. The rockin' tune got a great response, but the crowd stayed mostly seated for this and the rest of the show, other than to give Elton a mini-ovation after each song.
One of the things I love about seeing Elton John live in concert (this was my sixth time since 1999) is the way the stage crew showcases his impressive piano skills on the video screens with close-ups of his fingers flying across the keys. Elton demonstrated these skills throughout the whole show.
He'd get up and cross the stage here and there between songs, but as usual stuck to the bench. And that's the way we like it. He pounded and belted out a steady stream of hits,
including "Levon," "Tiny Dancer," "Philadelphia Freedom" (a personal favourite of mine), "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and "Daniel." Next we were treated to an extended version of "Rocket Man" that I've heard him play at live shows past, and it never fails to fill the arena and sound incredible.
After "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues," it was time for a few selections from his Grammy-nominated album "The Union". After practically apologizing for breaking up the hit parade - "I know it's difficult to listen to new songs, but if I don't play 'em I'm gonna go nuts," he quipped - he launched into about a half-dozen of the impressive tunes.
The crowd responded appreciatively, and we could tell Elton was having a ball playing them. Then it was back to the hits. We were back on with the first chords of "Sad Songs" (Say So Much), followed by more favourites including "Candle in the Wind" and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" - which he dedicated to the friends and family of his band's chiropractor who Elton said is from "about three hours from here".
With the first few notes of "Bennie and the Jets," much of the crowd in front of Elton finally stayed on their feet and rocked out along with 'ol Reg (Elton's real name). He got us hopping with "The Bitch is Back" and kept us bopping to Crocodile Rock (during which he let the crowd fill in the "La la la la las") - then thanked us and left the stage, to crazy applause, hoots and hollers for more.
But... we had a funny feeling inside that there was still something missing.
Elton was back quickly and after signing autographs for nearly everyone in the front row (oh, the envy! I'll get there one day), it was time for "Your Song" - the one he'll never get away with not playing at a show. And so he did. And we all sang along. And it was magical. Funny feeling, indeed.
Sherry Kaniuga before another Elton John concert in Las Vegas. (Sherry Kaniuga)