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Elton at the Hollywood Bowl, 9/7/73

di David Rensin

The house lights dimmed and a lonely spot picked out a single figure onstage. 

"And now ladies and gentlemen, this evening's hostess... the star of 'Deep 
Throat,' Miss Linda Lovelace!" 

Looking more like the enriched mistress of a Las Vegas Kingpin than the 
renowned man-eater she is, Linda stepped from the shadows toward the 
microphone. The huge backdrop picturing Elton in top hat floated lazily down 
as the stage lights went up to reveal full-grown palm trees bordering a huge, 
glittering staircase and five pianos of varying colors. 

"Hi," Linda gurgled. "I'd like to introduce some of tonight's guests, very 
important people and dignitaries from around the world who wouldn't dare have 
missed this gala evening." Over the staircase in rapid succession bounded the 
Queen of England, Elvis Presley, Frankenstein, the Pope, the Beatles, Batman 
and Robin, Groucho Marx and Mae West. Moving to the pianos, they raised the 
covers to display the giant inlaid letters: E-L-T-O-N, and in doing so, 
released a flock of doves to fly aimlessly about while Linda introduced the 
band and finally: 

"Here he is, the _biggest_, _largest_, _most gigantic_, and _fantastic_ man, 
the co-star of my next movie... Elton John!" 

We've learned to expect different and novel things from Elton John. He is a 
man, however, whose patently non-outrageous music often clashes with his glam 
stage show, something that has progressed from mere acrobatics to a full- 
blown production. But does Elton need all this? His music holds its own -- 
something especially evident at his first Los Angeles dates at the 
Troubadour. At the Bowl, he neither avoided the histrionics nor carried them 
to expected heights. Those opening moments embodied most of the evening's 
flash, and one could sense the audience waiting for something more to happen. 

"Elderberry Wine" led into a pleasant version of "Your Song," and a 
magnificent "High Flying Bird" followed by "Honky Cat." Elton appeared almost 
solemn and somber, resolute upon hitting the high notes. It wasn't until 
"Hercules" that he began to move, to kick the piano bench away, to leap into 
the air -- and yet, it carried none of the impact of the old. 

Elton's raucous rockers worked better onstage than on record. He was able to 
get a fuller, less cluttered sound, and of course, he played off the 
audience's reaction which was frenetic throughout. He was tasty in his 
selection of material which included "Madman Across the Water," "Have Mercy 
on the Criminal," "Teacher I Need You," and three songs from his forthcoming 
album, and "Crocodile Rock," for which a "crocodile" (songwriting partner 
Bernie Taupin) on organ accompanied Elton. The cast and company reappeared 
for "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and Elton's "favorite rock & roll 
number," "Honky Tonk Women." 

But in the end, there was only the mad proletariat rush for free Elton John 
T-shirts, and a few doves still circling the Bowl, looking for a home.