While he may not be able to hit those high notes in "Tiny Dancer," Sir Elton John had little trouble bringing down the house at the Toyota Center on Thursday, as he plowed through a 26-song setlist largely devoted to his classic chart-topping days in the early 1970s.
Touring to celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Rocket Man," he remains fully deserving of his legendary status after more than four decades in the biz . . . let me count the reasons why:
1. Amazing outfits
For a man who once performed dressed as Donald Duck, John was downright subtle Thursday night in his bright red suit with the word "Fantastic" written across the back in rhinestones. Eyewear was royal blue, as were his shoes and shirt.
2. Very. Serious. Fans.
For better or for worse, John enjoys a fan base unabashedly devoted to "good times." The plus side is that virtually every audience member knows every word to every song. This is a crowd that brought actual lighters to the show, rather than using the free Zippo app on their iPhones. John even gave a shout-out to super fan Lynn Wyatt, his "longtime friend" who was in the audience.
Be warned, though. After an hour, things got a little hairy a few rows down from me as no fewer than eight security guards ushered out a fan who took a swing at the man next to him. Right after "Rocket Man" of all songs — which, by the way, was easily the biggest crowd-pleaser of the evening.
3. Rose Stone (Sly's sister) is in his band
That's right, the amazing Rose Stone of Sly & the Family Stone (she's the lady in the platinum wig) currently sings in John's band. Stone, like John himself, has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
4. A mini-performance after every song
John stands up and bows after each song, but with the slightest of variations. Sometimes he stands and leans on the piano. Other times, he'll point to the crowd and shout. At one point, he ran circles around the piano.
5. He does it 'cause he loves it
While some musicians always say they "love" performing for fans, Elton John appears to actually mean it. You can hear it in the songs, right down to his extended piano solos and amazingly honest singing. Even as a seasoned 66-year-old musician, the guy's not afraid to come across as vulnerable as he sings classics like "Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters" or "Daniel."
Bonus: Drummer looks like Joe Biden
Oh yeah, John's touring drummer Nigel Olsson — a member of his band since the late '60s — is a spitting image of the vice president . . . right down to the full suit and tie he wears.
Check out our Spotify playlist for a song-by-song recap of Elton John's performance at the Toyota Center.