The Pilgrimage Part 1: Amazing Graciousness

November 20th has finally arrived!  Its been at least 2 years (probably more) since I saw Elton live…and I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve.  (Note to EJ:  This train does need to stop here in Florida more…)

My sister Lisa picked me up at (zero hour) 9:00 a.m. to head to Daytona  Beach.  And so the pilgrimage begins…

Of course, we listened to The Union all the way up.  I swear, I just don’t get tired of that album, and I’ve been listening to it every day, every where I go since October 18th.

Fast forward to Daytona…When we were checking into the Hilton, which is right across from the Ocean Center, my sister coyly asked if perchance Elton was staying there, and the desk clerk said he didn’t know, but if he was, he would be on our floor (because that’s where the Presidential  Suite is).  Alas, no EJ siting, but who knows…I’d like to think he was just down the hall.

As we were getting ready for the concert, I couldn’t decide what to wear.  I was worried that my gold sequined sweater clashed with my shirt. I asked my sister if it was too much, and she said, “Too much for an Elton John concert?”  Good point.  Too bad I didn’t bring my Monkey Suit and Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes.

We found our excellent “Rocket Club” seats (on the floor, center stage, 28th row), and the buzz of excitement began to fill the arena.  At about 8:05, Elton came on stage (to the delight of the roaring crowd) to tell us about what we’d be seeing tonight.  I guess he felt the need to explain the concert and the collaboration to those fans who came just for him.  And thus, from the beginning, it was quite evident that this night was not about Elton, it was about Leon.  And how much it meant to both of them, but especially to Elton, to have reconnected after all these years and to have worked together with his idol.  Very genuine and very gracious.  As he left the stage and Leon entered, he asked us to give Leon a great big Daytona Beach welcome, and that we did. Let the magic begin!!!

And magical it was.  Leon was great (I think I might just have to get a Greatest Hits or something and give it a listen) then Elton played some of his hits (starting with Sat-uh-day, Sat-uh-day!!!), then the two played most of their songs from The Union, with EJ finishing things up with another set from the juke box.  Almost 3 and a half hours of electric music, solid walls of sound…

Leon surprised me and actually spoke a little during his set.  He dedicated “A Song for You” to Elton, telling the crowd how Elton got him out of the ditch he was in and how much his life has changed for the better since then.  It was very poignant.

Of course, the crowd was on their feet when Elton came to perform his first set, especially since it started with Sat-uh-day.  And Rocket Man was one of the best versions I’ve heard live (but then, it is always amazing).  I must add that the lighting and the effects during the show were some of the best I’ve seen at an Elton John concert (although the iPhone 4 doesn’t do it justice at all).

Live from Daytona Beach!

The crowd was very gracious through The Union, giving them a standing ovation after each song.  (I wish I had gotten up and danced to Hey Ahab and Monkey Suit, but I’ll leave that for Part 2). And of course it ended with In the Hands of Angels. Elton explained to the crowd that Leon wrote the song as a gift to Elton’s (and now Leon’s) manager and Elton for doing what they’ve done for him.  My sister and I shared a special toast to “Johnny and the Governor” during the song…she knows why.

The Union

It was great to see Nigel, Davey and the rest of Elton’s band there, too.  I wasn’t sure if they were going to play with Leon’s band (like they did at the Beacon Theatre concert).  But I knew right after we got to our seats, seeing the Nigel Olsson drum set, that the gang was there. It just wouldn’t have been the same without them.  I mean, it just HAS to be Davey playing The Bitch Is Back!

The Captain Fantastic Guitar!

The crowd was on its feet for most of Elton’s last set (I would’ve been standing the whole night except the people behind me might not have appreciated that).  And of course, you know when when he comes back out to sing Your Song that the concert is coming to an end.   Always a bittersweet moment for me.

Anyway, it was such an amazing night, with such amazing musicianship and, perhaps more impressively, amazing graciousness.  And, guess what, I get to see it again the next night!

The Union Tour: Daytona Beach, Florida (November 20, 2010)