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March 23, 2011

Can Elton John still deliver the kind of spectacles he used to?

Elton John will perform at 1st Mariner Arena this Saturday. It'll be 40 years after he first performed in the city, at the Mill Run Theatre, on his first American tour.

Since then, he's performed scores of times in the area, most recently two years ago in Washington with Billy Joel. But the last time he played Baltimore proper was in 1999.

On tour lately he's been performing his greatest hits, but also selections from his excellent collaboration with Leon Russell, "The Union."

The album, a mix of boogie-woogie flourishes, blues, and classic rock, finds Elton showing off the kind of swagger he hasn't in years.

In songs like "Hey Ahab" his writing is playful and clever, and his performance is as euphoric as the Elton of old. Elton and Leon, by the way, will perform together on Saturday Night Live later this year. Fingers already crossed for an Elton-Stefon pairing.

"The Union," which includes vocal cameos by contemporaries like Neil Young and Brian Wilson, was nominated for a Grammy earlier this year, but lost to, ugh, another Herbie Hancock record.

Still, those who've seen Elton in concert say anyway that's where he's in his element, donning the kind of get-ups that would make Kylie Minogue blanch. While reporting a story about 1st Mariner Arena's 50th anniversary, Chris Kaltenbach talked to Pat O'Malley, a former sports reporter for the Sun, who recalled seeing the singer in the early 70s.

"He started yelling back at security,” O’Malley said. “He told security to get out of the way, and they did. The next thing you know, he did ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,’ and there were a couple hundred fans up on the stage…It was wild — really wild.”

Can Elton still deliver those kinds of spectacles? When was the first time you saw him in concert and what was the experience like? Will he change the lyrics to "Candle in the Wind" again to honor Liz Taylor?

Update: A slightly longer preview of the show and review of "The Union" is here.

Photo: Elton John and Billy Joel performing in Washington in 2009 

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Posted by Erik Maza at 12:07 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Music News


At this point I just want the concert to be over already, I'm tired of staring at the billboard from my office window. Don't even get me started on the Sade billboard; that thing's been up for like a year.

i don't know if he can still put on spectacles. perhaps we should ask Rush limbaugh?

I live in Madrid and saw him do this show in October. I'm here to tell you he's every bits as he was back in the 70's....a complete showman! He had the crowd in the palm of his hand for the three hours he performed.

I saw him at Wembley Stadium in London in 1998. It was supposed to be the Face to Face tour with Billy Joel, but Joel backed out at (literally) the last minute with laryngitis. So, we got over 3 hours of Sir Elton, instead. It was awesome. He definitely put on a great show back then.

If had been the other way around (Elton John backing out at the last minute, and three hours of Billy Joel), I think I would have put up a fit that'd make the soccer hooligans blush.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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