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da www.liverpoolecho.co.uk del 16 ottobre 2009

Sir Elton John talks about his Liverpool auntie and Wirral drummer

Jade Wright talks to Sir Elton John about his mammoth Red Piano tour

WE knew that Sir Elton John loved Liverpool. We knew he had a Scouse Auntie – he dedicated his Summer Pops show to her. But the news his drummer, Nigel Olson, is from the Wirral came as a surprise. Even to him.
“Turns out he was born in Wallasey, so I guess he supports Tranmere,” laughs Sir Elton. “Or Everton.”
Nigel will be back playing alongside Elton when the Red Piano tour returns for its final fling at the ECHO Arena this month.
“He’s still playing better than ever, and singing better than ever,” says Elton. “It’s one of the best bands you will ever hear.
“I couldn’t survive without those people and my sanity wouldn’t have survived without them either. We’ve been through an incredible ride together. You live an insane kind of life, you have an insane schedule, you’re on the road, you have to have your own little family with you.”
The Red Piano tour has been around the world since we saw it in Liverpool last year. At first it was for 75 shows over three years in Las Vegas but it was extended. Elton finally closed his six year Las Vegas run in April this year, and plans to take it for one last trip around the world before finally drawing it to a close this month.
It’s become an iconic stage performance in Sir Elton’s career, although he always swore he’d never play Las Vegas.
“Usually the thing with Las Vegas is, it’s where musicians go to die,” he laughs. “It’s like when you’re at the end of your career you go and play Vegas. I like to take a risk, so I wanted to do a show that no-one had seen before, there had never been a real rock and roll show in Vegas since Elvis Presley.”
And that red piano?
“I was fed up with playing a black piano,” he says, simply.
“I thought let’s have something different – let’s have a red piano and that will set the tone of the show. So we started with the red piano and the idea kind of spiralled from there. It was a chance to be reflective about my career, in a fun way.
“I gave David LaChapelle (Red Piano tour designer) a set list of songs – he picked the ones he thought he could do the best films of, ones that tell a story, and visually I just let him go ahead and do what he wanted to do.
“Some of the images I’d forgotten completely about and you sit there going, oh my God, did I actually wear that? Did I do that?
“I’ve always dressed up to get on stage. I think there’s that part. I just couldn’t go on stage with what I was wearing from the street. There’s part of that British kind of pantomime, whatever it is, heritage thing that we have in England. Performers like Mick Jagger and David Bowie and Rod Stewart and Freddie Mercury, we come from that and we all embrace that.
“I changed so much – the looks, the costumes, everything. I’m not as flamboyant as I used to be but this show does give me the chance to revisit my past. I’m now wearing the glasses that I sell in my own gift shop.
“I’ve had a long career, there’s going to be a lot of changes but, until you see them put in a montage like that, you don’t realise what you’ve actually done.
“So it’s a nice chance, without being cheesy, to look back at my career and say yeah, this is what I’d done up to now.”
The set showcases Elton’s songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin.
“I’ve been writing with Bernie Taupin for 38 years,” he explains. “It seems like five minutes ago since we were kids and the way we actually write songs together hasn’t changed at all.
“He writes the lyrics and then I go away and I write the melody and we’re never in the same room at the same time – that’s never changed. “There are a lot of enquiries about what does this song mean, what does that song mean?
“Daniel had more enquiries than any other song that we ever wrote and it’s because, when Bernie wrote the song, in long hand, I looked at the paper and I thought this is too long. And I hadn’t ever read the lyric but I just crossed the last verse out and the last verse explained the whole song.”
The centrepiece of the show is Elton’s homage to Marilyn Monroe – Candle In The Wind.
“It’s exactly like the photographs and the footage of Marilyn,” he explains. “It’s nice to be able to do that one on my own because it’s such a sad song and a very emotional song and, of course, it’s tied in with what I did with Princess Diana as well.
“I didn’t want to do it with a band, I wanted to do it just me and her and that way the song works. Because the song has been done so many times – this way, I think, it really gets the meaning of the song, which is closing the door at the end and she says goodbye.”
As well as the hits, Elton also peppers the show with anecdotes.
“I talk to the audience a great deal more. There’s so much going on on stage, you have to bring the focus back to yourself. It allows you to have conversations and tell the audience about the songs and how they were written and be funny.
“I’m the most famous poof in the world, and I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I wouldn’t want to live my life hiding, running away, having something I was ashamed of. I didn’t ask to be this way but it just came out like that and that’s the case and all these people say, you can change from being gay to, to being straight. Bull****.”
And with a smile, he adds: “I’m very happy with who I am.”