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Elton John’s Bowie Tribute and his last US Concert

Elton John has been on a farewell tour for about five years. Three nights ago (Nov. 20), he performed his last concert in the United States, which was in Los Angeles. The concert was streamed on Disney, and we watched it the next night. Michelle and I saw the show when it came to Albany a few years ago. Prior to seeing the show, I had generally good feelings about Elton John but didn’t necessarily think of myself as a fan. He came to an arena that was literally connected to the place I worked at the time (a series of tunnels and covered walkways connect the State Capitol to what was, at the time, called the Times Union Center, among other buildings). I remember calling Michelle and asking if she wanted to see Elton John if I could get tickets. Both of our attitude was, that, sure, we’d see him, but we made virtually no advanced preparations. Instead, I gambled that I could get cheap tickets using Stub Hub at the last minute. The gamble paid off— not only did we get dramatically reduced-priced tickets at about the moment the concert started, but they were for seats that were actually in the front row. They turned out to be the best seats we ever had for a concert.

The concert was great. I went in as a casual fan but my appreciation for Elton John and his music shot up after that. The recent televised concert was a good reminder of the experience.

I have written before about the tenuous relationship between Elton John and David Bowie. In life, they had taken public shots at each other, and to my knowledge they never worked together. Bowie, who covered everyone from John Lennon to Bruce Springsteen, never covered Elton John. At least three of Elton John’s songs— “Rocket Man,” “The Bitch is Back” and “Bennie and the Jets” were derivative of Bowie songs (the latter, Bernie Taupin admitted, was more or less inspired by Bowie in the first place). For this reason, for a long time, I thought of Elton John as kind of a family-friendly Bowie knockoff.

That is, of course, both unfair and untrue. Elton’s scope and output stands on its own. Commercially, Elton John was even more successful than Bowie, and his cultural impact has been, at least comparable.

So, I’m kind of sad that I don’t have a video of one of them performing the other’s song, or better yet, the two of them performing together. That said, here is a clip of Elton performing a piano tribute to Bowie at a concert shortly after Bowie’s death. I have read elsewhere that this is an instrumental version of “Space Oddity,” and that Elton used it as an introduction to “Rocket Man.” I don’t hear “Space Oddity” here, and the clip ends before whatever comes next. Maybe you can hear “Space Oddity” or maybe what I read was describing something else. I kind of like to think that Elton John created this piece of music exclusively as a tribute to Bowie. In any case, it is well done.

Elton John is the same age as Bowie. I finally saw him live at a point in time after Bowie had already died. If this past concert of Elton’s last in the U.S., I’m glad I caught him before he wrapped it up.

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