The air pianos were out Sunday night at Huntington Center.
Elton John made his triumphant return to Toledo for the first time since a 1993 performance at the University of Toledo's then-Savage Hall. At that time, Bill Clinton was in his first year in the Oval Office, David Letterman took his late-night show to CBS from NBC, and Le-Bron James was only 8.
Times may have changed, but as a performer, John has not.
At 63, he's a bit thicker around the waist and his vocals an octave deeper, but his youthful energy and enthusiasm onstage last night were affirmation that rock-and-roll never dies - or grows old.
With no opening act, John performed 25 songs during a two-hour and 45-minute concert with no intermission and only the occasional chitchat to a sold-out crowd of about 8,100. His vocals were up to the task, and his piano playing was inspiring throughout - and all sounded equally good in the medium-sized Huntington Center, which seemed tailor-made for John and his backing band.
Dressed in a long black coat with an array of sequins, a brilliant blue shirt and shoes, and black pants with a blue stripe, John treated concertgoers to a greatest-hits show from his four-decade career: "Tiny Dancer," "Rocket Man," "Daniel," "Honky Cat," "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," "Something About the Way You Look Tonight," and "Candle in the Wind," to name only a few.
John rummaged through his own record collection and pulled out a few deep cuts as well, "Burn Down the Mission," and "Madman Across the Water," which featured a playful piano flourish on the backside of the song, including a brief jump into "The Girl From Ipanema." And yes, what would an Elton John concert be without the piano-fueled warhorse "Take Me to the Pilot."
The evening's tone - mostly up-tempo, nostalgic - was set at the opening, with the epic tandem of "Funeral for a Friend" and "Love Lies Bleeding," followed by "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," the former punctuated by a crushing solo from John's guitarist Davey Johnstone.
The quintet of musicians accompanying John, also including his longtime drummer, Nigel Olsson, provided musical muscle to the classics, as the band shifted effortlessly from arena rocker ("The Bitch Is Back") to couples slow dance ("Someone Saved My Life Tonight") with ease.
The night's setlist successfully seesawed between the moody music swings, and the crowd fist-pumped and swayed along to it all. Even the performance of the new song "You're Never Too Old to Hold Somebody," which John jokingly acknowledged as "risky," was greeted warmly, with nary a mass exodus by fans to the bathroom to be seen, though the rest of the band took a quick breather. (It should be noted that John did not leave the stage except for a 90-second break prior to the encore and then spent five minutes signing autographs for fans in the front row before launching into "Your Song.")
It's been 17 years since John played Toledo, which he acknowledged more than once.
"It's not all about playing Chicago, New York, and L.A." he said before playing the final song of the night, "Circle of Life."
"Coming here tonight and playing for you guys was such a pleasure. You guys lift me so high," he said.
After last night's show, John, know that the feeling's mutual.
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