The Rocket Man touched down at Sarnia’s RBC Centre last night, gave a royal performance of greatest hits

Photographs by Kerry Belliveau of Kerry’s Klips Photography

Review written by Joe Burd and Kerry Belliveau

Like a candle in the wind – or more likened to an Olympic torch – Sir Elton John’s light shined bright last night at Sarnia’s RBC Centre, bringing our fair city four decades of his internationally acclaimed, award-winning music.

The RBC Centre has recently hosted the likes of some of the biggest entertainment stars in the world having had both Jerry Seinfeld and Gordon Lightfoot on its stage lately, but last night they took it up another few notches and brought possibly the biggest star yet to grace our town – Sir Elton Hercules John.

The crowd was abuzz as the hour approached, everyone was awaiting the master’s arrival and buying up everything they could – t-shirts, hoodie gear, posters, key chains, hats and mugs – as mementos of what would likely be one of the best shows anyone’s ever seen – bar none. Elton’s reputation precedes him when it comes to his music and presence.

Music lovers from far and wide – literally – streamed into the venue last evening ensuring that there’d be no empty seats by the time the Rocket Man touched down on the stage in a sparkling blue suit, reminiscent of Captain Fantastic and complete with blue-framed sunglasses.

The atmosphere in the RBC Centre was surreal – almost dream-like – with a stripped down stage and an intentionally intimate setting that included only Elton John without a band.

The crowd was an eclectic mixture of young and old with seasoned veterans as well as plenty of rookies on hand. As Elton came out from behind the curtain and walked out on stage, the RBC Centre erupted into an appreciative applause filled with admiration and joy as everyone was truly eager to follow him down the yellow brick road.

With only a slight bow to the anticipating audience and no adieu at all, Sir Elton John wasted no time opening up the show up with a powerful, aurally magic rendition of the first single The One from his 1992 album with the same name.

Once the first song was finished Elton took the time to address the audience saying, “Welcome Sarnia,” then pausing before adding, “I never thought I would say those words,” to which the crowd, who were clearly as surprised as he was that he was in Sarnia, responded with a collective laugh and more deafening applause.

He also took a moment before the second number – Sixty Years On – to pay tribute to his friend and bass player Bob Birch who recently passed away, dedicating the night to his memory.

Smash hit after smash hit – including such memorable classics as Greatest Discovery, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, Your Song, Ballad Of The Boy In The Red Shoes, and Levon – Elton continued to receive standing ovation after standing ovation, keeping the audience ever so captivated and wanting more.

Before starting into his eighth song of the evening – one of his categorically greatest hits Tiny Dancer – he proclaimed to the crowd, “This one’s dedicated to all the ladies here tonight.”

When he performed an almost-10 minute rendition of – probably another one of his biggest hits of all time – Rocket Man, the crowd went nuts with their powerful response signaling that this number could very well be his best song of the night complete with amazing acoustics and unsurpassed energy.

Interacting with his audience time and again, Elton talked at one point about a concert he performed in New York City not too long after 9/11 and shared with the crowd that it was the most moving concert he’s ever performed. That’s a monumental statement – if you think about it – considering that he and his award-winning writing partner Bernie Taupin re-wrote Candle In The Wind in 1997 to perform at the September 6 funeral of his close friend, Diana, Princess of Wales.

At another point well into the second hour of his show – moments before he went into his classic Someone Saved My Life Tonight – Elton reinforced his intimate connection to the audience when he noticed someone was holding up a sign near the front of the stage wishing two concert-goers in attendance – Doug and Cathy – a happy anniversary. He pointed to the sign, smiled as he sat down again at the piano, and dedicated the song to them.

Next up, he played his international hit Never Too Old (To Hold Someone) that he wrote with Leon Russell, remarking that they penned it at the combined age of 138 and adding that “You’re never too old.”

The original rendition of Candle In The Wind once again brought the crowd to their feet with no shortage of screams of delight and an all-around frenzied response – people throughout the venue lit the entire place up with cell phones and lighters to show their appreciation.

After an outstanding 24 smash hits, Elton John’s inaugural show in our city by the bay was coming to an end as the master left the stage with the raucous crowd once again becoming engaged, shouting “Encore” in an almost-choreographed unison.

A few moments passed and Elton came back out to another rousing standing ovation, signing autographs along the front row – as well as putting his John Hancock on Doug and Cathy’s Happy Anniversary sign – and the crowd again went nuts.

Sir Elton went on to thank the crowd for their support and even went one step further remarking, “Thanks for buying a ticket to the show tonight,” clearly showing his deep appreciation for his fans.

He then continued to show that appreciation by giving the capacity audience exactly what they really wanted – an encore performance of his Academy-award winning song Circle of Life from Disney’s children of all ages blockbuster The Lion King.

When he was finally finished his encore, he took a bow, kicked up his heels as he walked off stage, and sported a genuine big smile, clearly having had a good time himself in Sarnia.

On a final note of appreciation for those who came out to see him, he had his stage manager come back out and invite four very lucky people backstage for a planned meet and greet and to have their photos taken with the music legend.

The four lucky folks who got to meet and greet with Sir Elton – Celia Dwyer, Kyle Conroy, Korey Conroy, and Kevin Conroy (left to right in photo) – said they waited 20 hours in line for tickets. Dwyer said it was the best show she's ever attended, remarking it "was even better than Pink Floyd."

RBC Centre Assistant GM Ryan Chamney said after the show, “Feeling it was an overwhelming success, no empty seats in the house, the enthusiasm of the crowd was very evident to us and Elton could definitely see it too.”

Chamney added, “It’s a big challenge to secure these types of acts – arguably the biggest show in history for the SECC/RBC – and we are all very proud of this tonight."

There’s no question that Elton John has found himself a new place to call home anytime he wants to come back and – based on everyone’s reaction – this is a town that hope’s it will be sooner than later.

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  • spence hillier

    The perfect review of how the show went…it was fantastic….you should write for the Observer