A few verses into the opening song, Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, you could sense that something was not right with British pop icon Elton John’s singing.
His baritone was sounding a little harsh and the delivery a little too forceful.
At one point on Candle In The Wind, probably his best known song, one of Britain’s most successful music stars even went out of tune.
The explanation came immediately after the song ended – he told the 5,000-strong crowd who turned up on the first night of his two-night show at The Star Theatre that he was battling a “stinking cold”.
REVIEW / CONCERT
ELTON JOHN ALL THE HITS TOUR
The Star Theatre/Tuesday
John, ever the consummate professional, vowed that he would get through the show nonetheless, and this he did with aplomb.
Amazingly, not only did he soldier on through a set that lasted 2 1/2 hours, his voice also seemed to get better with each passing song.
Perhaps there was something in the drink beside his piano from which he would frequently take sips in between songs. Or maybe it was the exuberance of his rollicking early hits culled from his prodigious 1970s output.
A lot of play was given to the seminal 1973 album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, including the playful, all-out rock ’n’ roll of Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting and Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ’N Roll).
John, dressed in an electric blue suit decked out with copious amounts of glitter, was not kidding when he named his current world wide tour the All The Hits Tour.
The set list brought the audience back to a different era of pop music, a time when hit songs were more adventurous and complex.
Levon (1971), Tiny Dancer (1971), Bennie And The Jets (1973) – they all featured long mid-song jams and sweeping outros, as well as dramatic arrangements.
Then there are tunes such as Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (1973) as well as Burn Down The Mission (1970), both of which are pop-rock zingers with prog-like tempo changes and wild instrumentations from the singer-cum-piano man and his backing quintet. John’s spirited playing was especially evident on Rocket Man (1972) and its breakneck-speed piano runs.
Judging by the volume of cheers and standing ovations, the best received songs on the set list were not the rocking ones, but instead his series of big, grandiose ballads.
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, The One – these were just some of the piano ballads and hit songs that the fans saved their biggest applause for.
Conspicuous in their absence were some signature songs such as Can You Feel The Love Tonight from the 1994 animated hit film, The Lion King, and Something About The Way You Look Tonight, from his 26th album, The Big Picture.
There are not many artists who can afford to leave out some of their best-known songs in a 21/2-hour“greatest hits” set list, but as seen by how he conquered a nasty cold to forge ahead with the show, John is no ordinary performer.