On Wednesday night, something amazing happened. I had the craziest dream.
It all started at an Elton John concert in Tingley Coliseum, where me and a friend had procured two $50 general admission tickets.
With delusions of grandeur, we snuck from our nosebleed section seats into the pit, hoping to blend into the crowd at the edge of the arena.
As the lights came down and music royalty took the stage, we looked at each other, in disbelief that we pulled it off.
Within moments of this telepathic celebration, a man with a flashlight approached us and I thought for sure the jig was up.
He held up two tickets. "Front row seats?" he said.
He must be a last minute scalper, I thought. I made the international hand gesture for 'I'm broke,' and hoped he’d leave us alone.
The man looked at me confused and shook his head. “Do you want em!?!” he yelled, over the roaring crowd. Very confused, I nodded slowly, not sure what was happening.
Next thing I knew, the two tickets were firmly in our grasp and we followed him, toward the stage.
Past the fifth row, then the fourth row, then the third row, then the second row.
As I tried to keep cool beneath increasing disbelief, the man led us to the middle of the front row. I turned around and realized we were 20 feet from the man in purple, with quite literally the best seats in the house.
Trying to act natural, I felt my face fight back the biggest grin ever.
On the stage, Sir Elton John showed that his flair for style is still in full effect. Dressed head to toe in all purple, fittingly the color of royalty, from his bedazzled jacket with “EJ” on the back to his shoes, reminiscent of Heath Ledger’s Joker.
“We haven’t been here in awhile and we’re so looking forward to tonight,” he said to the anxious crowd. “So, we hope you enjoy what we’re going to play.”
With that, he launched into a rumbling performance of “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind: Elton had arrived.
The notable moments are many, and began with the buildup and emotional crescendo of “Levon” that left more than a few audience members teary-eyed as they sang along with the climactic chorus.
John also seemed to enjoy the big reveal when it comes to doling out the hits, striking the opening notes of “Rocket Man” with heavy purpose and letting the realization fall across the audience, leading to an ocean of people swaying to the beautiful verses that reflect a poetic distance between two lovers.
Being so up close and personal, I sensed an obligation to record the concert from beginning to end but I found myself propelled to put the phone down. I knew I had to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience, resulting in many lopsided recordings of half-choruses and snippets.
When he wasn’t addressing the audience like a humble host or covering all the bases of his legendary hits, the piano man and his guitarists traded off riffing solos that displayed the aged rockers still held the nimble fingers of younger men.
A household name like Elton John could come in and play a half hour set with no complaints from anyone. But he and the band go the extra mile and seem to be holding onto the good old days, not only in sound but also in presence, as they fed off the audience’s energy.
With the set length and gusto of John’s performance, you couldn’t tell if he was in Madison Square Garden or somewhere much more notable than Tingley Coliseum. It seems, to Elton, that music is music no matter where you play it.
“When we go back, on the plane tonight, we will take you with us. Because we won’t be able to sleep, we’ll be talking about the show,” he said. “That’s what you do for us and you’ve been doing it for all those years — 48 years, baby!”
John took time to reflect on his 70th birthday, which was on Saturday, and waxed nostalgic on a 50-year partnership with songwriter Bernie Taupin, who wrote lyrics for many of the icon’s songs.
“To survive 50 years in this business and still be together — and stronger than when we started out — is an amazing achievement and one that I am so, so, proud of,” he said. “There are many times I can remember the songs; when we wrote them, where we wrote them, how we wrote them,” he reflected, before launching into one of their first collaborations, the infamous “Your Song.”
Throughout soulful ballads like “Tiny Dancer” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” it was a surreal experience. With the audience holding up so many phone lights, Tingley Coliseum looked like a planetarium.
There was a moment where Elton John looked at me, directly into my soul. I pointed to him as we locked eyes and turned my thumb way up, to let him know that he was still killing it just shy of 70 years old.
After playing for over two hours John made a fake-out exit, during which the audience chanted his name, hoping for an encore.
Boy did he deliver. John returned to the stage and the security fell back, as we were all allowed to lean against the stage for “Candle In The Wind,” making an already intimate experience all the more so.
He didn’t stop there and, to fulfill the wishes of those longing for the fast-paced classics, John dove right into two inspired performances of “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” and “Crocodile Rock,” with the singer allowing the packed auditorium to fill in the legendary refrain of “Laaa-LaLaLaLa” on the latter.
As the bassist and lead guitar traded solos back and forth, John took a little walk from one end of the stage to the other, signing anything the audience handed him.
He made his way closer to our end of the stage, and I frantically searched my pockets for anything to be autographed. I came up empty-handed and realized that the only thing I had was the shirt on my back.
There was not enough time to remove my leather jacket first, so I gripped the shirt in two hands and ripped it in half like a soul possessed. My chest exposed, I held up the tatters of my shirt for Elton to sign.
I’m not ashamed to say I didn’t get the shirt signed, but I will keep it forever as a reminder of the best concert I have, and probably ever will, see.
That's a brief rundown. A lot more happened but it would honestly be impossible to convey the awesomeness and it's easily one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I know, as far as concert experiences go, I'll never top it. And that's okay.
I checked off an item on a bucket list that I hadn't even written yet. People often say that there is an expiration date on musical talent, but I can say with certainty Elton John is far from it. Thank God, he gives us something to believe in, during a time when we so desperately need it.
The point is kids, take risks. Don't settle because of the hand you've been dealt or because someone says you belong in one place and not another.
Take it from me, you may just end up swaying to "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" close enough to EJ that you may as well be in some piano bar in Brussels.
Matthew Reisen in the news editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MReisen88.