Elton John/ Peace One Day, Wembley Arena, London
Monday 24 September 2012
When film-maker and former actor Jeremy Gilley founded the Peace One Day charity a decade ago with the laudable aim of establishing an annual day - the 21st of September - of global ceasefire and non-violence, he quickly enlisted the support of internationally-famous performers to help spread the message.
Actor Jude Law in particular has played an important part in raising awareness and introduced this year's high-profile event. The Croatian duo 2CELLOS may be Elton John protégés but their attempts at reinterpreting Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or AC/DC's "Highway To Hell" were made worse by a booming sound system that didn't do James Morrison many favours either.
Even if his heart is in the right place and he has been a stalwart supporter of Peace One Day, it's a bit of a stretch to call Morrison a singer-songwriter when he has relied on collaborators to help him pen the likes of "You Give Me Something". Looking like Chris Martin's younger brother but wailing like Joe Cocker, he was supermarket blue-eyed soul writ large, symptomatic of a disease that has been affecting British music for far too long.
Thankfully Elton John retrieved the evening with a finely-judged set, opening with the apposite "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding", straying from the tried and tested with the rarely performed, gospel-flavoured ballad "Believe" from 1995's Made In England – which made the most of Bernie Taupin's thoughtful lyrics – and even enabling the more knowledgeable of his fans to pinpoint exactly where Australian dance wunderkids Pnau lifted the words that became the refrain for the title track of their recent collaborative chart-topping album Good Morning To The Night (it comes from Honky Château's 'Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters', another highlight).
Wearing a sparkly Madman Across The Water coat, he sang two of that album's enduring classics, "Levon" and "Tiny Dancer", as if to demonstrate that, before the glitter and the schmaltz, he was one of the iconic British stars of the early seventies.
Despite his white gloves, longstanding drummer Nigel Olsson continued the assault on the ears but, even if Elton John's baritone occasionally drifted towards a worrying bellow, he was on fine form, departing from the list on the spur of the moment for a rousing "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" that drew smiles from Davey Johnstone as he was caught between guitar changes, adding rolling piano fills to "I'm Still Standing", and climbing on the Steinway for "The Bitch Is Back".
He nearly exited down the wrong flight of stairs and, after inevitably encoring with "Your Song", almost missed out on the bouquet of flowers Gilley wanted to give him, yet the good-natured audience knew they had just witnessed “a true survivor, feeling like a little kid.”
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