Elton John, Roundhouse, London

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The Independent Culture

Elton John and the country-rock legend Leon Russell opened the Radio 2 Electric Proms at London's Roundhouse.

Forty years after his last performance at the venue as support act for The Who, the multi-award winning singer/songwriter started solo with an array of classics such as "Burn Down the Mission". Elton soon treated the crowd to the rarely performed "Ballad of a Well-Known Gun", before a glitter ball was lowered for "Tiny Dancer".

The star didn't wait long to introduce the first of his hand-picked guest-singers, gritty East End soulster Plan B (aka Ben Drew). Unfortunately, Elton's introduction of Drew as a "phenomenal singer" seemed for soem reason to curse one of this year's most impressive new acts, who promptly offered a nasal rendition of "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues".

Any number from Drew's No 1 album, The Defamation of Strickland Banks, would have been preferable to an unsatisfactory rendition of the song which thankfully was saved by Elton's passionate keys and the band.

Introduced by Elton as his "idol", Russell then made his entrance in an electric wheelchair, before performing three songs solo. He was joined by the Laura Nyro-esque singer Rumer, who lulled the audience with a rendition of Russell's "This Masquerade".

Elton and Russell then returned to their piano blues and honky-tonk rock'n'roll roots for the next hour of the show. The veteran songwriter admitted to the crowd of mainly thirty- and fortysomethings that he knew it wasn't easy to listen to a whole album live. Yet he and Russell continued to rattle through the least familiar duets of their acclaimed album.