Fri. Nov. 9
$88, $68, $48
N. Charleston Coliseum
5001 Coliseum Dr.
British-born, Atlanta-based songwriter, pianist, and pop singer Elton John and his full band are solid for a show on Fri. Nov. 9. John, guitarist Davey Johnstone, keyboardist Guy Babylon, bassist Bob Birch, percussionist John Mahon, and drummer Nigel Olsson have recently toured Australia and North America behind a newly-released, 18-song collection titled Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits.
In 2005, the pop star (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in 1947) marked the 30th anniversary of the release of the album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, with a new deluxe CD version of the album. In 2006 he released the autobiographical album The Captain & The Kid. The Elton 60 DVD marked his recent 60th birthday concert in Madison Square Garden and the official release of Rocket Man.
One of the local stations officially welcoming the pop star to town is The Bridge @ 105.5 FM. City Paper spoke with two of the station’s daily on-air jocks — music director Joel Frank and program directory Mike Allen — about John and the significance of his Charleston concert.
CITY PAPER: What is it about Elton John’s songwriting that maintains such popularity?
JOEL FRANK: Songwriter Bernie Taupin. I love early Elton John. I think what made him so popular was his great soulful voice, defining rock piano sound, and, most importantly, his dynamic personality. I’ve got to believe that Elton is lucky that “Tiny Dancer” fell into his lap and didn’t go to handful of other people. Taupin, along with Jim Steinman [Bat Out of Hell], are two most under-appreciated songwriters of the last 40 years. The songwriting process between Taupin and John was pretty interesting; it wasn’t as much of collaboration as it is a collage. Taupin was in one room writing lyrics and John was in another playing piano. They threw it together and saw what happened — almost like the Jackson Pollock of rock ’n’ roll.
mike allen: The songwriting collaboration of Taupin and John created songs that reached out to people on an emotional level. They are songs that you know by heart, even if you haven’t sat down and listened to an Elton John song in years.
CITY PAPER: Which Elton John hit or album do you think is the most rockin’?
JOEL FRANK: My personal favorite is “Take Me To The Pilot.” Every time I hear “Levon” and “Burndown the Mission” while I’m on air, I shut the studio door, turn the music up as loud as possible, grab the mic, and sing at the top of my lungs. “Honky Cat” has a really cool jive to it. I sing “Crocodile Rock” with my nephew, and I had a listener turn me on to “Rotten Peaches” from Madman Across The Water. Elton “rocks” in a totally different way than Zeppelin, G’n’R, or the Stones. He gives off more of a groovin’ feel.
mike allen: Rockin’? I really think he’s more on the rollin’ end of the spectrum, but I’d have to go with “Madman Across the Water” or “Love Lies Bleeding in the Sand.”
CITY PAPER: Which Elton John tunes get the most airplay at The Bridge and why?
JOEL FRANK: “Take Me to the Pilot” gets played the most, partly because it’s my favorite — and I unintentionally play it the most — but also because it was the first song I ever heard The Bridge play that made me want to work here.
mike allen: “Honky Cat,” “Burn Down the Mission,” “Madman Across the Water,” and “Love Lies Bleeding in the Sand,” which fits in nicely on that level with the “quality rock” that we play, where some of the sillier stuff doesn’t fit. I was working for another radio station in town when The Bridge flipped from an R&B station to rock. I was flipping through the dials, and I heard Elton’s distinct voice, but it was “Bennie and the Jets,” “Levon,” or “Rocket Man.” I called and spoke with John Mahjor, the brains behind the launch of The Bridge. He gave me a full education on the song — and from that moment on, I tried to get a job here.
CITY PAPER: NASA played John’s “Rocket Man” for the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery on Oct. 26. If you could have picked he tune, which one would it have been?
JOEL FRANK: There are “good clichés,” and that is one of them. The only other option would have been “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” but I have no problem with NASA doing the cornball thing and playing “Rocket Man.” It probably would have been my choice.
mike allen: “Rocket Man” was a good choice. Other than that, I might have gone with “Yellow Brick Road” … seems like it’s a lot about shaking off the world and saying goodbye.
CITY PAPER: Why should anyone other than dedicated Elton John fans buy tickets and attend his concert at the Coliseum this Friday?
JOEL FRANK: One of the first things my dad ever taught me was that no matter who it is, you always go see the best of the best. Elton John is one of the most dynamic and unique performers in rock ’n’ roll. He has influenced artists not only in rock but also R&B, rap, jazz, and beyond. Hopefully he still has the Daffy Duck costume.
mike allen: He’s a performer that has at most points in his career been able to crush a show in a stadium. How much better will it be in the “intimate” setting of the North Charleston Coliseum?