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
"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
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.