On June 21, 1975, Elton John played his soon to be released album Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy in front of 120,000 fans at London’s Wembley Stadium. The crowd, who came expecting the hits (which opening acts Eagles and the Beach Boys gladly delivered) walked out by the thousands when presented with the unfamiliar material. Last night, in front of a thoroughly ritzy crowd, John debuted his Captain Fantastic sequel The Captain and the Kid at Lincoln Center’s 1,233-seat Frederick P. Rose Hall. The tuxedo-and-evening-gown clad audience may have not been the most boisterous crowd in rock history, but nobody walked out this time — even if some of them spent more time looking at their Blackberries than the stage.
John put on a typically amazing high-energy show. Kicking off with his 1973 magnum opus “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” he dragged out the his warhorses (“Bennie & The Jets,” “Rocket Man,” “Philadelphia Freedom”) early before playing most of The Captain and The Kid for the first time in front of an audience. The eight autobiographical songs he played trace John’s career from 1970 through the present; next to his 2001 comeback album Songs From The West Coast it’s Elton’s only post 1970s album that’s strong from start to finish.
Looking around the crowd it occurred to me that the more people pay for tickets (the best seats were $1,000 — though it’s all for charity) the less they seem to enjoy the show. I can’t remember the amount of times I’ve seen people in the so-called “golden circle” at arena shows sitting down indifferently, sending text messages while the fans behind the stage are dancing in the aisles. One exception: Sugar Ray singer Mark McGrath who was seated directly in front of me, and seemed to be having a blast. He burst onto his feet when the band went into “The Bitch Is Back” and did a little shimmy while grinning from ear to ear. So take a cue from the Sugar Ray dude, all you suits!