The Elton gig that’s still my best show ever
I SAW Elton John at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre this week. He was great.
I'm taking a bit of risk saying that. As I write this it is still about 10 hours before the concert starts, but I'm supremely confident.
I speak from experience. I've been there before.
The last time I saw Elton John in concert was 45 years ago.
I was six months out of school, a few weeks into my first job as a cadet journalist in Sydney.
It was a Sunday afternoon. I was finishing my shift around 6pm when the phone on my desk rang. A few mates were going to see Elton John at Randwick Racecourse. Did I want them to swing by and pick me up?
Sure, why not?
We were late, we didn't have tickets; we just paid at the gate and started pushing our way through the crowd.
When the first strains of Funeral For a Friend started we were about 20m from the stage so we stopped and dropped anchor.
And then began one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I only have to hear any of the songs from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road to be transported back to that magical night: Elton almost close enough to touch in what looked like a black wetsuit covered in coloured balls; the perfect daylight-saving light-blue evening darkening to purple and then black, the crowd singing along to Benny and the Jets; percussionist Ray Cooper frisbeeing his flat cap into the audience as he left the stage after the final encore.
I'm fortunate enough to have been to a lot of concerts before and since that one. I've seen some of the biggest international acts, such as Coldplay, U2, Madonna and Fleetwood Mac in their prime, and some of the best local bands before anyone knew them.
I remember seeing Chuck Berry backed by an Adelaide outfit called The Fleetwood Angels. They later dropped the Fleetwood and made it big. And I was at a jam-packed venue in the early 70s to see hot act of the day Ol' 55 do a set of about six songs. When they left to go to their next gig most of the crowd went with them.
There would have been only about 20 people left when another band came out.
"Hi," said the lead singer to the almost empty room. "Thanks for sticking around. We're a band from New Zealand. We're called Dragon."
And they blew us away.
But nothing can compare to that night at Randwick Racecourse. That was THE concert, MY concert.
The one that we all have. The one that even now, in my 60s, I bring up without even thinking when someone asks: "What's the best concert you've been to?"
And they do ask. There's something about the first really good concert you go to that stays with you forever; something that makes you want to talk about it years later.
I've had people get starry-eyed recounting seeing Status Quo at Festival Hall or Robbie Williams at Suncorp Stadium. I know a woman who was so smitten by Bruce Springsteen at QE II Stadium in 1985 that she still travels the world watching him play.
They've all got their concert, I've got mine.
I was reflecting on all that as the days ticked closer to what will probably be Elton John's last-ever Brisbane concert and thinking what an incredible thing it must be to have given so many people so many amazing experiences over such a long period.
I was thinking too, that seeing him for the last time would be a bittersweet experience. A mixture of nostalgia, in-the-moment joy, and loss.
Not that I won't be able to hear him again.
Incredibly, on March 3 and 4, he'll be playing at Sunshine Coast Stadium, Kawana, a couple of kilometres down the road from my house.
Whenever I drive down Nicklin Way I can see the canvas banner hanging on the chicken wire fence that goes around the ground. In big letters, ELTON JOHN and the dates, like a sign advertising a school fete or cake stall.
It seems astonishing to me that one of the biggest entertainers in history will be coming to our little community sports field. It's hardly Wembley or even Randwick Racecourse but it does have a grandstand, some grassed hills and plenty of open ground.
I won't be at those concerts - I'm thinking I'll be able to hear them just by opening my bedroom window - but I do have some advice for those who will be going along.
Get there late, start walking through the crowd and don't stop until the music starts.
Trust me. You won't be disappointed.
Who knows, it could even end up being YOUR concert.