Neil Spencer


There are a lot of concert and album reviews in the music papers that I seldom give any attention. This time I will make an exception, because this concert review mentions the song “Grimsby” that Elton John made. It so happens that Grimsby Town is my favourite football club in the English league. They have been struggling for some years now, but have fantastic support among their fans. Recently they started a Crowdfunding campaign to collect money for wages in the hope that they will be able to earn promotion from the 5th tier of the English Football League next season.
I have donated some money to this campaign and if you like this blog I hope you will help out too – here`s where you can read a little bit more and contribute:


Elton John / Hammersmith

By Neil Spencer

Curses upon the Marylebone Road and all the traffic that prevented me catching the Elton John Christmas Special in its magnificent tinselled entirety.
Gigs as good as this one are rare enough, without spending the first twenty minutes stuck inside a mobile with the King`s Cross blues again.
Thus it passed that at least one reporter is unable to pass judgement on the opening numbers of what was the first EJ gig these shores had witnessed in no small age, and one of but a handful that the man had put together to celebrate his return to Britain, the festive season, and the third division.
No reservations about the rest of the three hours which John played though – sheer brilliance from him and the band; there must be very few acts capable of brewing up the sort of atmosphere that washed round the Hammersmith Odeon by the end of the night. Even at Christmas.

Hell, you saw it for yourself on the Christmas Eve Colour Stereo spectacular on telly on Christmas Eve, didn`t you?
You didn`t? Shame.
Previously I had been more than a mite sceptical about the continuing esteem in which the Elt was held, Charlie Murray`s superlatives notwithstanding, and was unwilling to grant anything more than lightweight status to the fellow and his ridiculous eyesight.
But, live at least, Elton John adds up to a lot more than a good voice and a bunch of trendy lyric sheets.
The guy has charm, he has style, he can sing and play with ferocity as well as delicacy, and goddammit, he can rock and roll.

He opened – or so I was reliably informed – with a clutch of solo numbers from the early albums; things like “Skyline Pigeon” and “I need You To Turn To” that the usual Elton gig allows no time for.
E`en so, it was not long before the band appeared for “Country Comfort,” “Highflying Bird” and a roaring frantic “Burn Down The Mission” which closed the first half.
Billows of dry-iced mist billowed forth as the curtain rose for “Funeral For A Friend” with the svelt Elt perched on his piano stool looking like he`s just fallen off the top of the Christmas tree in his little tin soldier glitter outfit, which struck a strange contrast with the dark yawning eeriness that came from the PA system and the raucous tones of Elton as he sang “Love Lies Bleeding,” with the band cooking behind him.
Then came the hits, one after another, so that you started wondering how many chart entries that guy must have to his name that you should know so many of his works without even trying.


“Candle In The Wind”; a short break for “Grimsby” off the “Caribou” album; then “Rocket Man” with more punch and directness than ever came across from the radio, and a superlative “Benny And The Jets,” which is presumably Elt`s idea of a soul number (it made the US R&B charts) and sung in his best mock Donnie Elbert falsetto.
The audience lapped it up. Out came a relaxed nicely paced “Daniel,” a beautifully played “Grey Seal” (a number which certainly deserves wider recognition than some of the man`s more effete pieces), and a wistful “Yellow Brick Road,” likewise handled with loving precision and taste by the band.
Ah yes, the band; Dee Murray`s loping bass lines, Davey Johnstone`s restrained and always appropriate axe work; Nigel Olsson`s subtly understated drumming; and finally a special word for percussionist Ray Cooper, who is the only man (other than Roger Chapman) who can make playing a tambourine look like a definitive musical statement. And who can also blow a pretty mean duck call.

The introduction of the Muscle Shoals Horns put the final seal of mastery on the proceedings, and even though they did manage to blow a few bum notes during the rest of the show, their contribution certainly helped lift “Lucy In The Sky” and a frighteningly energetic “Saw Her Standing There” into another class altogether.
After which we had “Don`t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” “Honky Cat” and a “Saturday Night`s Alright For Fighting” which went on forever and which would have had just about everyone jiving in the aisles if the bouncers (I mean, Security), chaps hadn`t taken their job quite so seriously.
After which what could possibly follow in the encore but “Crocodile Rock,” “Your Song” and “White Christmas” itself, complete with a few hundred balloons and a couple of hundredweight of polystyrene snow just for good measure.
Nice one Elt. You may never get promotion to the second but you sure know how to put on a neat show. The Pope should never have tried to follow an act like that.


I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.

This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Rod Stewart, Mike Heron, John Entwistle, Donovan, Ginger Baker, The Doors.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

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