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Elton John made his first tour of the US in 1970 in support of his second album, “Elton John.” He played 6 dates in late August at the Troubadour in Los Angeles that made him an overnight sensation and so after skipping briefly through San Francisco, New York’s Playboy Club and Philadelphia, he went back to the UK to plan a more serious tour that would run from October 29th through December 6.
The first stop on the tour was Boston for these shows at the Tea Party. The band still called him “Reggie,” and Bernie Taupin knelt by the wings of the stage playing a keyboard that operated a light organ – lights timed with the music. Eric Lustbader, reviewing Halloween night’s show:
A chunky silhouette enters stage left, sits down at the piano and, without fanfare or introduction, begins to play. The instant this happens the crowd fall silent. They hear the first chords, as chunky as the player, a syncopated beat, a signature tempo that at once recalls the beloved traditions of the origins of America’s best-loved creation, rock ‘n’ roll, and brings to that tradition something entirely fresh, and unexpected twist of the kaleidoscope which, like the first taste of premium champagne, is both unforgettable and addictive.
Then the voice is lifted in song and everyone present instinctively knows that they are witnessing something special. The voice is filled with nuance. In it can be found the influences of gospel, the folk blues of the Mississippi Delta, the smooth, infectious soul of Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound, and the kind of refined balladeering that had and – more than twenty years later – still has no peer.
That voice, with its echoes of America and so many things native to America; that voice, which was yet quintessentially English, with its English sensibilities and sense of music hall fun; that amazing voice transfixes the crowd that night, enrapturing them as it will so many millions through the world in the coming decades.
The band – Nigel Olsson on drums, Dee Murray on bass – comes on as Elton stands, displaying in all its eye-popping splendor one of his many outrageous outfits: lurid purple tights, flaming red jumpsuit, black velvet cape and stovepipe hat, a glorious, intoxicating mixture of Disney cartoon and filmic Phantom of the Opera.
He ploughs into a furious, electrifying rendition of Take Me To The Pilot, then segues into the more introspective Border Song, the sweetness of its lyrics so flawlessly blended with the aching beauty of the melody it brings tears to the eyes. He went on from there, bringing down the house in the course of the sweat-filled two hours he plays at the Boston Tea party. The crowd is hoarse from shouting, Elton can’t keep from grinning with the intense excitement of the moment.