Pity the poor residents of BS3, Bristol last night, as legendary pop star Sir Reg Dwight brought his farewell tour to the city for the very last time, apart from when he returns to play the same venue this coming Sunday.
Don’tchu know that ahm steel staindin’ bettah than ah evah deed?
Lookin’ lack a true survahvuh, feelin’ lack a leedle kid
And ahm steel staindin’ after all this tam
Pickin’ up the pieces of my laff withouchu you on my mand
Ahm steel staindin’…
I’m only kidding. While I am not a fan of most of Elton John’s music, I am not so blind that I can’t spot a legend when I see one. Let’s face it: you don’t stay at the top of your profession through seven decades unless there’s something special about you. And Elton isn’t the only golden oldie on tour this summer. They’re all out there, including some who should be out there and some who really shouldn’t.
Although Elton’s voice isn’t what it once was, he has managed to adapt, not even bothering with the top notes and singing in a lower key, albeit still with his ludicrous American singing accent and from all accounts he is still A Great Entertainer, a veritable touring jukebox with a stellar back catalogue.
The same can certainly be said for The Rolling Stones. Reports indicate that despite the death of Charlie Watts, they remain the greatest live rock and roll band in the world. Sadly, they no longer play Brown Sugar due to the lyrical content based around slavery, but they actually perform a relatively new song, Living In A Ghost Town. I’d still pay to watch them, especially since they have been on my bucket list for over half a century.
Rod Stewart, meanwhile, I can live without, but then since his classic Every Picture Tells A Story long player, released in 1971 which of course was the greatest year in music, I’ve been able to. Rod has long been on the cabaret circuit and good for him. I certainly don’t begrudge him his continuing success but personally, for me, I don’t want to listen to him, so I don’t.
Someone who definitely shouldn’t be out there performing is Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson. Around the turn of the century, Wilson emerged from a long period of darkness to begin touring and producing new music, most of which was dire but some of which got close to scaling the giddy heights of his youth. Yes, his voice was not what it once was. Yes, he stared blankly into a prompter to read the words of the songs he had written. But mostly, it was joyous. The fans were invested in each show, almost willing him through to the end, as if he might not otherwise make it. But now, at the age of 80, I struggle to see why he is still out there.
Wilson enters the stage using a Zimmer frame, sits at a grand piano which he doesn’t play and occasionally sings part of a song. His world class band cover up the deficiencies but my God he’s very old and he can’t cut it anymore. At one time, I’d have walked on hot coals to see him live. Now, I wouldn’t even dream about doing it. Just retire, Brian. You’re still standing, just. It’s time to enjoy the time you have left. Please. But one 80 year old is still out there and I am glad he is.
Paul McCartney is arguably the greatest living songwriter. His band, The Beatles, were not overrated; they were underrated. The songs will live forever. And Macca is still on the road, performing for two and a half hours a night, keeping the music alive.
His voice isn’t the same as it was and how could it be? But that’s not the point. He’s a Beatle for God’s sake and we should count ourselves to be very lucky he’s still with us. Despite everything, Macca hasn’t dropped an octave. And whatever he chooses to perform, you know it will be a great setlist.
After all this time, it’s still The Beatles – well, one of them – v The Stones, the two biggest acts of the 1960s. And when Macca and Sir Mick announce their farewell tours, I will need to be there. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, as they don’t say, but they’re still standing.