Elton John Burns His Way In To The Hearts Of Yakima At SunDome Performance
“You have more fun in the smaller places.” The pop legend known as Sir Elton John was not exaggerating as he brought his own brand of fire to the city of Yakima, Washington and rocked the Sundome. A mammoth two and a half hour, 24 song set was both rock show and hero worship as the fans joined together in over a dozen standing ovations. The building was packed to the rafters and filled with an adoring crowd wearing neon, blinking, red and green Elton John glasses. Those lights seemed to enhance the massive video display that was part of the consummate performer’s stage show.
The city’s local firefighters were fighting a large forest fire in the hills near Yakima and thousands of people were gathered at it’s CityFest, burning next door at the fair grounds (featuring the band Third Day). But, it was John’s music that set the dome ablaze, starting with the anthemic “Funeral For A Friend,” and thrashing into “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.” The crowd didn’t know how to contain their excitement as the roar was deafening when John dedicated “Tiny Dancer” to the ladies in the house (the song that always reminds this writer of the Cameron Crowe masterpiece “Almost Famous,” with Kate Hudson dancing and spinning in the middle of a vacant arena ).
Elton John’s band was a five-piece collection of seasoned pros (Bob Birch (bass), Kim Bullard (keyboards), Davey Johnstone (guitars), John Mahon (percussion) and Nigel Olsson (drums)) who have a wonderful chemestry with their frontman. Their deep and funky grooves proved to be a solid foundation for the epic piano playing ability of John and his tendency to improvise. The musicians exchanged playful grins with one another and Johnstone spent some time dancing behind John and his piano with his electric guitar. Not a song or a note was taken off and Sir Elton was there to bring his best the whole night through.
John, known for his flamboyant outfits- was elegantly dressed in a long, black suit coat emblazoned with sequins and jewels and highlighted in blue. His trademark sunglasses were emblazoned with diamonds, spelling out his initials, “EJ,” in the corner. His showmanship was impeccable, bounding up from his piano at the end of every song to point at and bow to fans. There is a wonderful ease and class that John flows in and enables him to be able to quickly establish a connection with those coming to see him. Every little grin was met with uncontrolled laughter and every shout and exclamation from John sent a wave of screams, bounding across the rafters of the arena.
By the time that John launched into “Rocketman,” the video wall behind the band was awash with decades old photos of John and rockets launching through space. John masterfully built the emotion of the almost 10 minute rendition to the point where there were couples standing, dancing and shouting into the night as pink flamingos kissed on the video screens. “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,” “Sad Songs(Say So Much),” and the victorious, “I’m Still Standing,” were a journey through the 80’s.
John also wooed the SunDome as a whole with transcendent power ballads like “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” and the Princess Diana themed classic “Candle In The Wind.”
What can you say about a performer who has had a Top 40 single every year from 1970 to 1996 and sold over 70 million albums? John’s songs are a soundtrack to generations of lives. From those who endlessly spun his albums on vinyl as a child to those who drove home from football games, singing along in high school- the fans are as diverse as they are fanatical. A group of 10 year olds swayed back and forth and knew every word to most of the night’s music. Die-hards in their 60’s talked between songs about how it had “always been a dream to see Elton live!” Almost every musical style was represented in John’s playing, from honkey-tonk, to jazz, to classical and rock.
John is a little bit over a year removed from a five year residency at the Caesars Palace Colosseum in Las Vegas. The Red Pianoshow ended with a final engagement of 241 shows. He will soon release a new studio album called “The Union,” teaming with producer T Bone Burnett, Leon Russell and John’s lifelong lyricist, Bernie Taupin.
The city of Yakima is beginning to attract some big acts. Bob Dylan will come to the northwest city this summer and Carrie Underwood will visit the Sundome in December. This is great news for the city who once hosted the Yakima SunKings- the now defunct CBA basketball franchise that enjoyed great success and funneled many players to the NBA.
“Crocodile Rock” seemed to be the perfect poppy, whimsical end to the night’s set list. But, Sir Elton was not done as he returned and burned some once-in-a-lifetime memories into many hearts with the Lion King favorite, “Circle Of Life,” and the strikingly beautiful “Your Song.” Each one of the 7500+ in the audience went swaying into the night believing that they would be able to tell everybody that “this is your song.”
Setlist: Elton John Yakima Sundome
Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting
Madman Across the Water
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Piano Solo/Take Me To The Pilot
Something About the Way You Look Tonight
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
Candle in the Wind
You’re Never Too Old To Love Somebody
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Bennie and the Jets
The Bitch Is Back
I’m Still Standing
Circle Of Life