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Croc rock under the palms
March 2, 2011 - Rick Chatenever
You’d think a week would be enough time for Elton John’s songs to go away. But ooh noo — Levon, Daniel, Rocket Man, Norma Jean, Benny and assorted Jets are still here, having a good old time hanging out with Tiny Dancer in the concert hall of my brain. They tend to show up when I’m swimming.
I always say the good movies are the rare ones you’re still thinking about the next day. It’s even rarer for a concert to have that effect. And this is coming from someone who wouldn’t count himself as an Elton fan particularly.
It turns out, the guy may be a knight, Sir Elton and all, but he definitely came to Maui to play. Three hours onstage with his band, without a bathroom break … he must have kidneys as mighty as his many talents.
With his stubby fingers on the Yamaha grand beating a path from classical virtuosity to swamp boogie, his voice as resonant as ever, his music is rock ’n’ roll’s answer to comfort food.
For decades now, I haven’t been sure I understood what his lyrics were about. I’m still not, actually. But they are as warm and reassuring as they are catchy, brimming with compassion and hope. His music has long been a good traveling companion, a good friend, and seeing him perform live added to the effect.
Usually, in the presence of superstars whose accomplishments are measured in superlatives, the first impression —when they first take the stage —is the most lasting. In Elton’s case, I found myself liking him more and more as the evening went on as he pumped out the greatest hits with a minimum of mugging and a maximum of professionalism.
Oh, so that’s what those words mean, consummate showman.
Co-starring with him and his comfortably outstanding band with the MACC’s new outdoor centerpiece. The Yokouchi Pavilion — named for Pundy Yokouchi, whose vision has become a 15-year legacy of cultural riches in our lives —made a memorable debut, shining in every sense.
Like something out of a sci-fi movie, a beacon dropped to earth by benevolent beings elsewhere in the cosmos, its beams of colored light bathed the stage and seemed to shoot up to the heavens.
Of course, the real story was closer to the ground, the daunting $13 million challenge of getting the thing built, much less having it perform so superbly the first time they flipped the switch.
I had the dubious pleasure of being on the sidelines of this for months now, breaking the announcement of the concert in a Maui News Page 1 scoop, then watching the story develop. We were there taking pictures of the fans who had waited all night for the box office to open. We got to share their excitement, just as we got to hear from assorted folks not happy about one thing or another, and sure there must be some sort of conspiracy behind it all.
Prior to the show, the island was abuzz, mostly with excited anticipation but in some cases with people disgruntled at spending more than $500 for a pair of tickets and still not being in the front row.
Was I the only one thinking how far $500 would go to feed hungry children in Africa? And these people, who had that kind of money, were complaining because they weren’t close enough?
My guess is, they never will be.
The night before last Thursday’s concert, you may recall, it rained. Poured, actually, waking me up at 2 in the morning with the thunder and lightning, with the thought, uh-oh.
My mind played out a series of horror-show scenarios: What if it’s still raining at showtime? … What if someone — please, not Elton — gets struck by lightning? … What if Kahului gets stuck in gridlock? … What if there’s a power failure? … What if I can't find a place to park? ... What if …?
For me, they were hypothetical exercises, bringing out my inner B-movie scriptwriter. For MACC CEO and President Art Vento, they were just more items that had to be considered on the never-ending checklist.
Luckily, the weather cooperated. But just like Elton and his band and crew, Art and his crew did the rest, adding another great chapter to the many in the MACC’s short history.
Elton John, it turns out, is one of those soundtrack guys, whose music has accompanied key scenes in a lot of our lives for decades now.
There were as many “Your Songs” as there were people in the audience. They’re there to help, in their own way.
Surpassing whatever I was expecting that night, Elton and pavilion left me feeling a sense of gratitude. It rhymes with attitude. They’re opposites.
• Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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