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  • Gig Review: Come Together: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Civic Theatre, Auckland - 17/07/2021

Gig Review: Come Together: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Civic Theatre, Auckland - 17/07/2021

18 Jul 2021 // A review by Roger Bowie

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was never my favourite Elton John record, even though it turns out to be everyone else’s.

At 76 minutes, it was long for its day, a ramshackle, mixed metaphor affair which reflected the prolific nature of the John/Taupin creative partnership in the early 70s, seven albums in five years, too many songs and too much excitement to attempt to cull and reject. My recall is that once you got to side 3, you wanted to stop, hence in those vinyl days the first few songs (sides 1 & 2) were the ones I heard. I never even bought the bloody album, I’d had enough after the dizzy heights of Tumbleweed Connection and the recovery from two average efforts with Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player, an album which exceeded even the promise of its title. Didn’t need to buy it, everyone else had it! And I was diving deeper into prog while Elton was heading towards disco via rock n roll, and so we parted company, as if he cared.

But as the years went by, and the anthems became anthems, especially after Funeral For a Friend (how did he know?) I felt the need to revisit my apathy and ended up with a bloody CD, which was poor quality at that, and so did little by way of resurrection. At least I got to know sides 3 and 4.

So tonight, as Liberty Stage brought another classic album to the stage, with a cluster of New Zealand’s finest and newest, will this coming together bring redemption?

Redemption for Elton John came to me in the late 80’s, with Sleeping with the Past, after trying a couple of early 80’s efforts and saying, in the vernacular of the time, today’s yeah, nah. And then in the early noughties, I saw him in Hong Kong, just him and a big white grand, with an orchestra under the lid. Not a concert I would have jumped at, but a ticket was on offer, and so I suspended disbelief, and was amazed at the resilience of the repertoire, hit after hit after hit, in intimate splendour, in a modest hall in China. And you would have sworn there was indeed an orchestra under the lid, such was the purity and lushness of the sound.

There’s no great white tonight, but the piano is stage left and centre, as a sombre entourage slips quietly on stage behind a trailing cloak, to reveal Matthias Jordan (Pluto) as the first version of Elton as the band sets us off with Funeral For a Friend, segueing into Love Lies Bleeding. Yes, this is classic after all; how many albums start off with 10 minutes like this? And Matthias (Jordan) John can sing !

Musical Director Jol Mulholland is on bass, Alastair Deverick on drums, there’s Guy Harrison (Miltones) on synth and occasional trumpet, and the ubiquitous Brett Adams on fabulous guitar. And behind them a bevy of Elton's, boys and girls and divas and rockers, testament to the vocal range and musical styles which the young Elton (the real one) mastered in his heyday.

Candle in the Wind: everyone knows it’s Marilyn, but everyone’s thinking of Di, and whose eyes go moist? And introducing Deva Mahal, daughter of Taj, who brings true diva quality to the song.

Laughton Kora is Benny, Luke Buda brings a suave and slightly camp Elton to the title track, Mel Parsons sings a song with no title, just words and a tune, and on comes the showman Elton, none other than Jon Toogood with a Grey Seal.

There’s a Sweet Painted Lady in the bevy, occasionally strumming on acoustic, and finally she comes forward, without any intro or outro (who forgot to do that?), but my neighbour saves the day with a “go Lou” and I correctly divine that this is Lou’ana, and she is indeed divine.

And on it goes, with the songs matching the strength of the singers, and of course they can all sing. And of course JT gets all the songs with the unwoke lyrics, songs you might not write today, because he’s a naughty boy anyway, and a splendid show-off. And as the album gets into the doldrums of sides 3 & 4, the strength of the band, and the interpretations of the singers, finally brings songs like All the Girls Love Alice, and Roy Rogers, and Social Disease, and Harmony to the fore, and all is forgiven, if not redeemed.

The album is over, and probably just in time, as the audience needs a break, in anticipation that the greatest hits are yet to come.

And so it does, The Bitch is Back, none other than Jon Toogood, and then everyone gets a turn at yet more greatest hits. Mel is just perfect as Daniel, Luke Buda John sits like a princess on an electric chair and yet someone does Save his life, Laughton Kora gets the biggest applause of the night (and there’s lots of it) by not letting the sun go down and finally, finally we get some classics from the first two albums, with Border Song and Take it to the Pilot just nailed by Deva Mahal, and Luke Buda with tremendous support from the choir on Tiny Dancer, probably the best song of the night.

Bennie and all his Jets come back for the finale and it’s over.

Marvellous night, great songs, great musicians, great singers. Everyone’s having a ball, and this Saturday night is definitely not for fighting.

Where did this show go………?

Maybe Lou’ana just stole it…….


Photos courtesy of Morgan Creative.
View the full gallery here.

 

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Oh man, what a funny old time. Here we are on the brink of climate catastrophe, and another Covid wave which threatens to lock us down if not out, and yet over the past 3 months we have been able to reflect on and enjoy the two song writing partnerships which have arguably defined modern rock.
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