From the front row to the rafters, audience members experienced a once-in-a-lifetime adventure put on by Sir Elton John and his band on Wednesday in the Baton Rouge River Center.
On Oct. 5, 2016, fans of all ages flocked into the arena in their most Elton John inspired costumes, complete with boas and handcrafted sunglasses. Many women showed up to the event calling it a “girls trip” while leaving their husbands at home so they could reminisce and experience the life left behind from their teenage years.
One group of women decked out in pink from head to toe and covered in feathers were overwhelmed with excitement. When long-time fan Julie Tatum was asked why she made the trip to see John she said, “Because it’s Elton John. When we were in high school, in ’73, he was big. Even in different years, ’75 and ’76, he was big and flamboyant even then.” Pamela Griffin added, “I’m just excited to actually see him.”
Additionally, Cindy Roussel was eager to hear the music, but it was the thought of John’s costumes that really got her excited for the event. She said, “I want to see if he really wears crazy costumes. I just want to see his flamboyant, glittered pant suits.”
In order to get everyone in their seats, the lights began to go off one by one. The masterful introduction to “Funeral for a Friend” began to play and it was as if the arena suddenly was filled with a presence unknown to this world. When John mounted his piano, wearing a bedazzled purple suit and polarized gold glasses, and was highlighted by a single spotlight the crowd began to roar. In this moment, it became apparent to the audience that the music of the night was not only meant to be heard, but felt.
The concert was a combination of both classic hits and current bestsellers from his new album “Wonderful Crazy Night.” But, no matter if the song was new or old, he and his band made sure the arrangement was innovative and something the crowd had never heard before.
It was when John began playing the No. 1 hit “Bennie and the Jets” that the crowd fell into a frenzy. Combined with the wailing of lyrics and piano solos crafted by John himself, it set a lighthearted mood that would not leave the arena.
During the song “Someone Saved my Life Tonight,” while the audience swayed and sang the lyrics, a spotlight began to shine into the audience. The light froze in the middle of the floor section and began to highlight a little girl, no older than five wearing a ballerina costume. She was dancing to the song without knowing the whole arena was watching her. In a sense, she bridged the gap between the generations that separated the audience prior to this moment.
The concert was filled with wild surprises and unique moments such as the bassist picking a young girl out the audience and piggy-backing her around the stage and letting her sit next to John as he played just long enough for him to kiss her on the cheek.
Also, John walked to the edge of the stage to sign autographs on whatever the audience members wanted, even a tennis shoe. But, throughout all of the action, John only ever took one break before his encore. This came as a surprise to many because he is known for his quick and frequent costume changes.
As the event was coming to a close, John addressed his fans saying, “I’ve been touring as Elton John since 1969. I want to thank my fans for their generosity and kindness. You can feel the energy flowing up and rolling over you on the stage. Thank you.”
John ended his concert with the mega-hit “Crocodile Rock” letting the audience fill in vocals for the bridge. As the song ended, he began to walk around the stage to thank his audience. But as he did this, something unique happened: he began praising his audience as the audience praised him. It was his way of thanking his fans, because without them, he would not have been touring for 47 years.
After the concert, Janet Falgout, who had already seen John once in 1996 with Billy Joel, said this concert was equal in caliber and experience. She had not listened to his new music yet but she assured, “I think I will investigate the album after this.”
John was accompanied by his band of long-time friends: Davey Johnstone, strings and vocals; Matt Bissonette, bass and vocals; Kim Bullard, keyboard; Ray Cooper, percussion; John Mahon, percussion, drums and vocals; Nigel Olsson, drums and vocals.