Elton John 

Sat., Oct. 1, Philips Arena

"This is gonna be a long show. But I don't care, this is my home," said part-time Atlantan Sir Elton John to a thunderous ovation from an adoring and unusually attentive crowd at the filled-to-capacity Philips Arena. Three hours and 10 minutes later, the show was over and the melting-pot audience spilled out to the lobby to buy expensive T-shirts and $400 jackets. But they didn't mind; they were happy. They were treated to a unique evening of the singer/songwriter's greatest hits and highlights from two albums: his most recent, Peachtree Road, and a classic, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

Backed by a circle of impeccable players, including longtime cohorts Davey Johnstone (guitar) and Nigel Olsson (drums), and the soulful eight-piece Voice of Atlanta vocal chorale led by Adam McKnight, John careened through the evening like a performer less than half his age, never losing interest or inspiration.

The well-received Peachtree Road material served as the openers for a string of hits that just kept on coming, like a pink E.J. iPod set on random: "Love Lies Bleeding," "Benny and the Jets," "Daniel," "Take Me to the Pilot," "Rocket Man," "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues," "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" and "Tiny Dancer."

But wait, there's more! Seven songs of rarely performed Captain Fantastic material -- a concept album detailing the story of his partnership with longtime collaborator and friend Bernie Taupin and their meteoric rise in the early '70s -- were introduced by John as being from a "very emotional" time. The 1975 album, he said, was written on a ship from England to New York.

John also dedicated "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" to the Atlanta Braves, with special praise for Andruw Jones and Bobby Cox. "I'll be watching the playoffs while I'm in Las Vegas," he promised. And can you just picture it? Sir Elton, in his posh, flower-lined dressing room in Caesars Palace, relaxing in a sparkly sweatsuit, blithely sipping a Diet Coke and rooting for the Braves on TV. That image is almost as incredible as his near-flawless performance, proving he's far from being an oldies act or sheer nostalgia. Elton John is still a Most Valuable Player.


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