Elton John, Union Chapel, London

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The Independent Culture

It was just Sir Elton and his grand piano for this intimate, power-ballad-laden recital of hits, the odd rarity (including, unexpectedly, "Sixty Years On" and the exquisite rock-stomp "Take Me to the Pilot", both from 1970's Elton John) and songs from his return-to-form album, The Union.

The showman from Pinner, dressed all in black, was in a moderately undemonstrative mood tonight, sticking to the music and keeping crowd engagement to a bare minimum – although he did find time to thank some members of his star-studded audience, namely tennis ace Andy Roddick, Richard Love Actually Curtis and, somewhat improbably, Alex McLeish, the Birmingham City manager, for their charitable support. He also bestowed praise on Ellie Goulding for her recent, winning take on "Your Song". "Well done her," he gushed. And the only pity was that there weren't any duets, because Elton always, evidently, loves a duet – Kiki Dee, George Michael, Nik Kershaw...

However, the 63-year-old vocalist is clearly in a good place, in lean shape and "pumped" from the giddy critical response to The Union, a record made with John's "idol", the gospel and country-rock singer Leon Russell (the 68-year-old Oklahoman wrote the gem "Delta Lady"), who was sadly absent here. The blues- and country-infused album has been described as "easily the best thing either of them has produced for years", and "Gone to Shiloh", their haunting American Civil War lament, worked compellingly well in these holy surroundings. As did the mournful, Randy Newman-esque "When Love Is Dying".

But even these numbers can't really compete with the humbling triple whammy of "Your Song", "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" and the sumptuous "Tiny Dancer". These were followed by a stirring "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (John clearly likes this one), which was only topped by a soaring, freewheeling "Rocket Man".

The gig is available to stream online at www.absoluteradio.co.uk in Full HD. It will also be played out in full on Absolute Radio on Boxing Day at 6pm.