I sat there in the nose bleed seats of the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, new Hampshire. My feet were tapping with excitement. As people hustled around me, I nervously chatted with my two brothers and sister. I had bought 4 tickets to my first concert, and they attended with me. The set up was fairly simple. There was an open stage at the back of the arena, with a few lighting rigs and large speakers hanging above it. Guitars and drums could be seen from my view. As 8pm approached, the thousands of people in attendance got to their seats. The lights went down and a music overture came over the loud speakers. I was unfamiliar with the song. Soon, the band came onstage and grabbed their instruments. The classical music that was blaring in the background began to crescendo. Suddenly, the keyboardist started to play. The long drawn out noise sounded like wind, and an electronic organ. It echoed through the arena and silence began to trickle across the crowd. And then he appeared.
From stage right, the short little man from England bounced across the stage. Soaking in the adoration, he waved to the crowd with much enthusiasm. Sir Elton John had arrived. As the thousands of fans continued to give him a standing ovation, Elton made his way over to his black grand piano. The lights onstage dimmed, and only a spotlight shined on the rocket man and the ivories. As he began to play the beginning of his song Funeral For A Friend/ Love Lies Bleeding, I couldn’t get the smile of my face. I had been a fan for years. And now, at the age of 19, I was seeing my favorite musician live in concert.
As he fired his fingers across the piano, he stuck his tongue out in mock expression. The close ups on the large screens showed as his stubby little fingers graced the piano. He was unbelievable. Though not dressed up theatrically like his 1970s and 1980s outfits, the man still had a colorful shirt under his black coat. And on the back, there was glitter and a rocket. Maybe it wasn’t a 5 foot wig and high heels, but for a man in his late 50s, it was showy. He breezed through classics such as Benny And The Jets and I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues. Due to his large adult contemporary hits, much of the songs were slow to mid-tempo. However, once he hit the tail end of his set, he started to really hit some home runs with his rock numbers. Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting, I’m Still Standing and Crocodile Rock got the crowd on its feet and clapping along. The man knew how to control the thousands in attendance. We were eating out the palm of his hand. During Crocodile Rock, he stopped the band from playing and encouraged the entire audience to sing the “la-la-la-la-la” chorus. And we did not disappoint. I remember vividly the lady in the seats behind us yelling for me and my siblings to get up and dance. At the age of 19, I was much to prideful to get up in the aisle way and dance. However, this older lady, beer in hand, danced enough for all of us that night.
After the encore, I recall Elton saying a few words on the mic. He wasn’t overly talkative at all that night. He talked about his recent album, the superb Songs From The West Coast. The album had received critical acclaim and the hit single I Want Love got a ton of play on MTV, mostly because of Robert Downey Jr.’s involvement. Elton announced that night in New Hampshire that Songs From The West Coast would be his last album and he wasn’t going to be recording albums anymore. The crowd erupted with applause. I’m not sure the crowd understood what he said. I felt bad for Elton John. Its as if a crowd of 15,000 people just encouraged him to quit writing music. However, when I thought about it, what would the alternative would’ve been? Should we have booed his remarks? That would’ve came off just as rude. So I guess it was a no win situation that night. Another thing that stands out in my mind about this concert was the encore. Earlier that day I heard on the radio the great George Harrison had passed away. The former Beatle band member had been battling cancer for awhile. That night, Elton remembered his friend George. And in remembrance, Elton and the band played Here Comes The Sun.
The experience of my first concert was unforgettable. I was able to see my favorite musician live and to hear all his great hits. It was magic. And to go to the concert with my brothers and sisters and share my passion for his music was very special. We all took away something from that concert. My sister had cried during the song I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues because it reminded her of her boyfriend who was in jail. Don’t ask why because you don’t want to know. My brother Jarrod said he enjoyed the song Levon, which he had never heard before. And my little brother Chris… well, I think he was just happy to get out of the house and experience something new. You can never have another first time, but you can always relive the memories.