Elton John in Savannah: a review and set list

Elton John took the stage at last night in the arena of the Savannah Civic Center in blue glasses and a glittery blue jacket with the Madman Across the Water cover emblazoned across the back of it.

In a 2.5 hour show, the 65-year old John proved that he’s still a great performer and piano player, even if his voice can’t hit all the notes that it once could.

I’d never seen Elton live, although like so many others I was a huge fan as a kid. The audience was filled with folks my age and older — largely with those who could remember the release of the great songs of the early-to-mid-1970s that dominated last night’s show.

The show started promptly at 8 with a less-than-20 minute set by 2 Cellos — Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, two handsome young Croatians who played off and on throughout John’s long set.

Elton was on stage by 8:20 p.m. and, after sort of a slow start, he and his large band seemed to gain momentum. I thought the lesser known “Holiday Inn” and “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” were the highlights of the first half of the show, but the second half had pretty much nothing but highlights, especially “Nikita”, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, and “The Bitch is Back”, with the word “BITCH” occasionally appearing on the screen behind the band.

The piano sounded too tinny and sometimes there was too much bass — but those problems can clearly be blamed on the venue. I’ll have more to say about the arena in my City Talk column on Tuesday.

Elton apologized early on for having bronchitis, but I wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t said anything. Both his voice and his stage presence seemed to grow over the course of the show. It’s hard to imagine many more tours like this one, so I’m glad I went, despite the hefty price.

During the performance, I had vivid memories from many years ago — of the physical details of the albums, of the friends that I listened to some of the songs with, of specific places that the music evoked. A friend was transported too — but to a completely different time and place.

I might or might not have a complete set list here — and there might be a couple of songs out of order. If anyone sees an error, let me know. I’ve added the album name and date here.

Look at how he embraced the 70s:

  • “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 1973
  • “Bennie and the Jets” Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 1973
  • “Grey Seal” Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 1973
  • “Levon” Madman Across the Water 1971
  • “Tiny Dancer” Madman Across the Water 1971
  • “Holiday Inn” Madman Across the Water 1971
  • “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” Honky Chateau 1972
  • “Philadelphia Freedom” single 1975
  • “Candle in the Wind” Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 1973
  • “Rocket Man” Honky Chateau 1972
  • “Hey Ahab” The Union 2010
  • “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” single 1983
  • “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” Goodbye Yellow Brick Road 1973
  • “Honky Cat” Honky Chateau 1972
  • “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” Breaking Hearts 1984
  • “Daniel” Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player 1973
  • “Nikita” Ice on Fire 1984
  • “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” Blue Moves 1976
  • “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” Caribou 1974
  • “Im Still Standing” Too Low for Zero 1983
  • “The Bitch is Back” Caribou 1974
  • “Crocodile Rock” Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player 1973
  • Encore: “Your Song” Elton John 1970