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Elton John @ 3Arena, Dublin


Singer, songwriter, straight, gay, father, activist and important enough to a second-tier North London football club to have a stand named after him: Elton John’s certainly led a colourful life. Similar colour in his life show, then, is something of a given.

Tonight’s one hundredth show of 2014 and the final date of a tour commemorating 41 year old classic ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ starts with an old school rock n’ roll bent. ‘Funeral For A Friend’ and ‘Bennie and The Jets’ lead the tributes to one of Elton’s finest records, the former preceded by an epic piano lead in which sets the jubilant tone of the evening.

Elton’s stage mannerisms are wonderful. He comes across not so much as ‘a queen’ but ‘the queen’, waving slowly as he stands between every track or gently bowing to the more rapturous moments. He’s grateful, yet he gurns manically as he glances away from his keys during the instrumental corners. It’s regal, as far as a performer can be when he’s wearing a purple glittered cape with ‘Fantastic’ emblazoned across the back in bubbly rainbow font.

There’s plenty of nice little references, too. ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ has a visual backdrop that also features the red brick road, a reference not to the book, but the intertwining start points of the yellow and red brick pathways in the 1939 movie. The destination of the red brick road is the stuff of trippy internet conspiracy theories, but Elton’s points at Hollywood, and features a wedding cake for Elton and David. ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ sees a wonderful bit of middle aged crowd rebellion, with three flares at the back of the arena prompting an unlikely security scramble.

After no less than forty-six years, it’s no surprise Elton has ample depth, yet he gives each track its due, often indulging in extended forms and band outtakes on top of the pop-length album versions. That means not all the hits get an airing – ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ are particularly conspicuous absences (lack of a suitable duet, perhaps), yet the 80s era still shines through as the night’s highlight. ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues’ and ‘I’m Still Standing’ are whopper sing-along moments, and ‘The Bitch Is Back’ – complete with giant flashing bitch sign – is so ridiculous its stunning.

There are some touching moments, too, with ‘Tiny Dancer’ dedicated to the (now cancer free) Lily-Mae Morisson, the Claregalway six year old whose story prompted the multi-artist fundraising cover release of Elton’s song last year. The man himself seem close to tears as he recounts the story, and drops in other local references, too, not least in dedicating ‘Hey Ahab’ to Cavan rockers The Strypes, whom he name drops in full, including their dad/ bus driver.

The voice perhaps isn’t quite what it was. It’s hard to picture the perfection of ‘Your Song’ or even ‘Sacrifice’ being laid down today without some serious studio alteration, yet Elton’s awkward charm and easy-going style plus a crowd passionately into the tunes makes for a cheesy sensation of a night. You might not think you want to see Elton John trawl back through the decades, but it’d be a miserly type who doesn’t find it a memorable Gouda of an experience. James Hendicott

Check out Shaun Neary’s full photos from the show below.

James stumbled into music journalism into 2007, when he attended a Seoul pop festival, mentioned his travel writing background to a local magazine editor and found himself interviewing Muse at ten minutes’ notice. He’d always been a music addict, mind, diverging from a rural punk scene to his current love of hardened beats, dance punk, bling-free hip-hop and the occasional bit of socially unacceptable cheese. He once wrote for Lonely Planet, interviewed Yoko Ono and asked a member of Mumford & Sons awkward questions about brain surgery. These days, James spends far too much of his time mourning the lost brilliance of Dublin record label The Richter Collective. But life goes on…