Like a Candle in the Wind
I am a guitar girl. I need the rock. I am at a sold out show. I am not supposed to be at this show; I'm supposed to be watching a friend's band rock it out, but someone in the elevator at my corporate-corporate-entertainment-biz office building was flashing a ticketmaster envelope in my direction. "Here," Max said, "I know you like him. You go; free tickets, girl."
I look inside. Gulp. My heart swells, my heart sinks. Free tickets to my favorite singer! I mean, no, NO! He is not my favorite singer. I hate him. But ... I love him. No. I hate him more than I love him. But ... oh, sweet Jesus on a hot cross bun, what if he played it live? Live, in front of me, singing directly to me because he knows how much I love him. How much I hate him. Love him. But, oh can you just imagine, can your mind even fathom the concept of hearing it -- live, onstage at MSG, surrounded by true fans -- my favorite song: Tiny Dancer.
I'm with my friend Sean, who is smarter than I am because he's funnier. He likes Elton John, too -- I was moaning about not wanting to go to the show by myself and none of my friends would be caught dead at an Elton John concert and whooomp, Sean willingly disclosed that he adores Elton. And Sean's smart! So maybe he understands that it's okay to schmaltz out every so often. We bumrush the arena. And, hey -- stick a fork into me, because: ding, ding -- I am baked. I wasn't willing to endure "Your Song" sans substance. So we walk and walk and walk and walk up, up, up until we're convinced we're sitting on the roof. Five miles later, we make it -- our seats are directly on top of the stage and we can look straight down and see the man, the myth, the legend and his pure, white piano. Rock and roll heaven, indeed.
Except Elton takes his sweet time taking the stage. We wait. And wait. At half past 8:00, the arena's at 40% capacity. Where are the fans? I used to go to R.E.M. concerts five hours early just to soak up the vibe. Can't these people show Elton the love? But, oh, just look -- maybe we don't want them to share the love. Look at the front row: rich, white squares. Elton John fans, all. Sweet Joseph, father of Jesus and husband to Mary, am I square? I look at Sean. He's fighting with the group next to us -- there's a seating mix-up. This woman gets up in my face: "Are you Gwen?" she demands. I'm not. Nor am I from the Children's Aid Society, which has thoughtfully provided the constituency of section 418, right above the stage. These people are neither rich, white nor square. I feel better.
Oh my stars, this is it -- the lights are going down, the crowd is on its feet stamping, screaming, no, they're roaring, they're roaring their approval and their adoration and their passion for Elton John. I am standing, I am jumping, I am shouting, I'm drenched in sweat -- this is it! This is the rock! He's out, he's onstage, he's at that beautiful white piano, he's singing, SWEET JESUS HE'S SINGING. "Love that bleeding in my hand." Or is it, "Love lies bleeding in my hand?" I have no clue and it doesn't matter. I don't know the real words, maybe nobody does, all I know is that this music is the soundtrack of my life. "Love that bleeding in my head." Love it, indeed.
Elton leaves the piano and struts to the front of the stage. Elton is the magnet and the audience is his meaningless iron filings; watching from straight up, the effect is mesmerizing. Teddybears, flowers, gift-wrapped packages -- magical objects flow in a steady stream to the stage. Elton accepts everything graciously. He spends ten minutes just shaking hands. His touch heals; he exudes nothing but love. He's back at the piano. He's singing. I don't know what he's singing about, but good Christ, it sounds so fucking meaningful. "Someone saved my life tonight, Sugarbear." I ask Sean: "Did Sugarbear save his life, or is he telling Sugarbear that someone else saved his life?" Sean ignores me. He's too blissed out to hear my petty questions. Elton reaches the build up to the chorus and, dear god, I don't care what he's saying I just want to go there with him; I want him to take me there to wherever it is that he lives, I want to live in Elton John world.
But, still, there's that niggling matter of semantics. Is it: "Someone saved my life tonight -- Sugarbear!" or "Someone saved my life tonight, Sugarbear." I may never know.
There is a very large fat man in the front row, and he can't help it, he can't, he's shaking, you can see it happening, he just needs to rock. He explodes into an unspeakably appalling display of dance and worship. I feel slightly ill but slightly in awe. I would rock like that if Axl were on stage. This man looks like he's reached satori -- he's glowing, he's found god, he's found his zen -- and apparently its all in the guise of Mr. Elton John. And now we're in "Benny and the Jets" world, and oh, those purple and green lights, oh, this is so magical, it's a magical Elton John wonderland. People are fainting in the aisles.
Oh, goodness, this is his song? Elton wrote this? Oh, wait. It's not "The Neutron Dance." It's that Philadelphia Freedom song that Sean likes. He leans in to tell me something but I can't hear him because I'm so confused -- everyone in the arena is clapping in sync, they're rocking out together and I've never even heard this song. Dear me. Next song. Oh, no! Now I am so sad -- apparently Elton has the blues. Oh, wait! Not really! Now we're happy again. I think he just sang "This could be a nectarine." That's a good thought, actually -- sometimes it's a peach, sometimes it's a nectarine -- one never knows. Sad songs, rock songs -- we can all get along as long as we rock it with Elton.
It is "Rocketman." Forty thousand people are singing along. And the screens? The giant video screen projecting Elton's image to everyone of those 40,000 people? The screens are showing poor CGI circa-1992 of planets and asteroids. People are pointing and swooning. I am laughing. I fall out my seat. Sean shoots me a look of utter disdain. The Children's Aid Society people glare. But, come on, people -- listen! Mars is, apparently, no place to raise your kids. In fact, it's cold as hell. If you do raise your kids there, there's no one there to help you -- okay, Elton. What? And if it's just your job for five days a week, what do you do on the other two? I don't get it.
Fuck me hard with a hammer. It's "Daniel." I hate this song. I HATE THIS SONG. This song gives me kidney stones. I hate Daniel. I feel the gorge rising. I hate Elton. This is not the rock. This is painful. I flee to the bathroom.
"You must love your job so much, you get two nights of this, I would kick anybody's ass if they didn't like Elton John." A very drunken girl from Long Island is waxing eloquently to the woman cleaning the bathroom. A skinny chick is passed out in the corner. Apparently the real rockers in the crowd have climbed to the roof to use the bathroom. Someone's smoking pot by the water fountain. There's a syringe in the toilet. For reals. Junkies dig Elton? Rock.
And that's why they call it the blues. And a new song. And another new song. Crizzap. Elton's trying to go Samba with this one. Come back, baby. And you've already written this song -- it was called "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" when you wrote it the first time. And since when do you have redneck ways, you English twit? Get back, hubcap? But Oh! Crocodile Rock! Elton's on the keys and he's rocking, he's rocking hard, he's sweating profusely and all is right in the world!
I saw his Behind the Music. He's been through hell and he made it out alive.
Insight: Old, fat, white people should not be allowed to dance in public.
He's playing the new hit, and, dear god, the screens are actually showing Robert Downey Junior, yes, they are showing Elton John's video while Elton John is playing it live. Elton John is singing and I'm watching Robert Downey Jr. lip-syncing on screen. My brain might be melting. I must find Robert Downey Jr. and tell him that, I, too, walk through my house meaningfully lip-syncing songs. Then RDJ Jr. will fall madly in love with me.
We are stuck in the ocean of Elton John fans trying to get home. Everyone is singing. Sean is humming. I am angry. The Children's Aid Society woman declares, "Elton is a God." A fat guy is still playing air guitar. "Take me to the pilot, take me to the chamber. I'm a totally pirate, I'm a clone arranger." I think.
I love the melodrama. I hate the crap. It's a paradox. It's not really rock. Elton will never be the rock. But still. During "Tiny Dancer," I was crying, that's how thrilled I was. I still love him. I am so uncool. I am a square, and that's fine by me for right now. It's a little bit funny, this feeling inside; it's not one of those I can easily hide -- as of tonight, I am a schmaltz-rock girl. And I am not ashamed.