Not exactly the best quality photography, but that IS Elton John a the piano.

Not exactly the best quality photography, but that IS Elton John a the piano.

There aren’t many acts I would pay to see in a stadium setting.

Oh, I’ll fork over hard-earned cash for $150-seats at a Broadway musical. I’ll happily part ways with my money to see an opera at the Met or a performance by the NY Philharmonic (or the substantially less impressive National Arts Centre Orchestra). I’ll even go see a pop star if they’re playing at a more intimate venue.

I’m not rich, but I’m an audiophile and I’m happy to put down good money for a good show.

But stadium shows are generally a let down. They involve sitting too far from the performer and, worst of all, being bombarded by a sound that’s a combination of too loud and not clear enough. Stadiums are designed primarily for sports, after all. They’re not known for their acoustics. Generally speaking, it’s better to stay home and listen to a good recording.

I’ve made exceptions. There are some acts that I just love so much that I’m willing to suffer the mediocre sound to see them live.

A few years ago, I got to see Roger Waters perform ( Pink Floyd’s The Wall in its entirety. That was a spectacle. And one of the only chances I’d ever likely have of seeing a live performance of my all-time favourite rock album. Waters didn’t disappoint, and the theatrics and the staging more than made up for the sound quality. That said, I’ve seen it now, and unless Pink Floyd ever reunites (fat chance!) I probably won’t go see Waters if he comes back again.

Aside from Floyd/Waters, there really aren’t many other acts left I’d be willing to see in an arena. Had I had the opportunity to see Queen before Freddie Mercury passed away, they would have been on my list. I’d consider seeing Duran Duran if the opportunity ever comes about, although I’m not willing to travel for them.

And then there’s Elton John.

Signing a few autographs before the encore.

Signing a few autographs before the encore.

I’m a huge fan, and up until this year, he remained the biggest gap in my concert-going experience. I had just never had the opportunity. Ideally I would have seen him in Vegas – it would have been a better venue and one where sound was more of a consideration – but when I found out he was coming to Ottawa, I made sure I wasn’t going to miss out. I bought a membership into his fan club and got myself on the pre-sale list for tickets.

I wasn’t disappointed. Yeah, I paid a premium for the membership, but I wound up being only 13 rows back! I had a fantastic view of this brilliant performer – better than the photos might lead you to believe, actually. He played for over 2.5 hours without a break – so generous – with a great selection of his hits and some deeper cuts. Even more exciting for me, the playlist drew heavily from my favourite John album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Yes, the sound was still too muddy/too loud, but honestly, it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. And unlike Waters, I’d happily pay to see him again in the same setting – he was that good.

Oh sure, I wish I could see him in a smaller venue, but aside from Vegas, I don’t think he plays anywhere other than stadiums. So I’ll just have to take what I can get.

Hoping he comes back soon. In the meantime, here is a video that my fellow concert-goer Reena recorded on her phone.


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