Elton John: a retrospective
Elton John, 1978 file photograph
He's known for outlandish costumes, his many wigs and just as many tantrums, but what Elton John is instantly recognised for is his seemingly never-ending list of one great song after another.
For more than four decades the madman from across the water has thrilled music lovers around the world with what are now true rock classics.
From his beginnings as a honky-tonk pianist playing pubs on weekends to the loftiest heights of rock stardom, Sir Elton (as we must call him these days) has never been anything less than a true professional and a classy entertainer who always gives 100 per cent plus.
Say what you will about Sir Elton, there is no skerrick of a doubt that he is the real deal.
With a back catalogue that includes such treasures as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Candle in the Wind, Your Song, Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting), Crocodile Rock, Daniel, Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, Don't Let the Sun go Down on Me .... (I want to keep going but I'll be listing songs all day) ... Sir Elton long ago proved his brilliance.
The crazy feathers, platform shoes and cowboy costumes grabbed our attention in the seventies and the Amadeus wig and long-tailed tuxedos held our adoring gaze in the eighties.
But throughout the entire spectacle, John's music has always shone through.
It has always been about the music.
His writing partnership with Bernie Taupin (the lyrics man) has blessed the world with incredible songs, but it was perhaps not until the release of John's 1978 haunting instrumental Song for Guy that we all suddenly realised how excellent a piano player he is.
That reality was cemented even further with Elton's 1986 tour of Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
What an incredible concert that was!
One half of the show playing beautiful arrangements of some of John's earliest and even obscure works – the other half of the show pure blasting rock n roll.
And the Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is one of the best ever live albums ever recorded.
It wasn't long after that tour that Elton had to undergo throat surgery.
But Elton's a survivor - he's still standing.
And when he is front of an audience, he never lets it down.
Think of his last Canberra visit – the now infamous thunder storm that drenched us all (not to mention scaring the life out of us), but which didn't stop a lone Sir Elton thrilling the whole crowd for three hours.
I was at a concert in Perth quite some years back when John appeared on stage before the show to announce that his drummer had just been rushed to hospital.
"Do you want us to go on without a drummer?" he sheepishly asked.
As the crowd roared "yes" I was thinking "no".
How can a rock band play without a drummer?
But they did and they did it so well – proving again to me that Elton and his entourage of fine musos are the ultimate professionals.
At another gig I was lucky enough to be seated front row and then standing up leaning against the stage.
While I was goggling a gorgeous buxom back-up singer, Elton left his piano and walked along the stage grabbing the hands of his fans.
Yes, I touched the man!
So tonight Elton and his awesome band are back in town to help us all celebrate 40 years since the release of Rocket Man.