Review: Elton John rocks sold out Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — With a penchant for glitz and glamour and the musical chops to always deliver memorable sets, Elton John has made his name synonymous with a grand production and a great show.
One of the most revered writers and performers to come out of the revolutionary rock ‘n’ roll movement of the ’60s and ’70s, John returned to the Mohegan Sun Arena Saturday to play his widely known, piano driven hits along with a few new songs for a sold out house.
Steve and Shelly Pollock travelled from Allentown to see John, who they’d seen live in the past.
“He’s a showman,” Shelly Pollock said prior to John’s set.
“We’re expecting a great show tonight,” Steve Pollock added. “We saw him in Camden (New Jersey) recently, but our seats are a lot closer here.”
John’s band walked out, clad in black, to the familiar tolling bells of “Funeral For A Friend.”
John, not as flamboyant in attire as he once was, still took the stage in a bedazzled blue suit with ruby red shirt and shoes and sat at his black Yamaha grand piano for the riveting instrumental that gave way to “Love Lies Bleeding,” the lyrical portion of the medley.
The knighted songwriter’s ode to the fragility of love showed his voice is still powerful even though his register has lowered gracefully over the years.
Standing to rile up the crowd, he turned around, showing the word “fantastic” on the back of his jacket before greeting the arena with “The Bitch Is Back,” reminding the audience why he’s a piano-rock legend.”
Taking every opportunity to play to his fans, John stood mid song to open his arms to the upper-level seating behind the stage, sending the section into a frenzy.
Robert and Connie Pugliese, of Scranton, were in attendance to see Sir Elton for the first time.
Connie Pugliese said she loves John’s catalogue of music.
“How can you not love Elton John?” she asked.
“I’m hoping to hear something from the ‘Bennie and the Jets’ era and about 100 others,” Robert Pugliese added.
Pugliese got his wish on the following tune as John launched into “Bennie and the Jets,” which featured a call-and-answer sing-along between John and the audience and extensive guitar and piano soloing.
The six-piece band included John backed by a guitarist, bassist, keyboard player and three drummers. The rock outfit turned the arena into a sock hop during “Bennie,” and didn’t let up.
Following up with “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” John took somber subject matter and gave it an attitude with a soulful vocal improvisation to end his popular hit.
Showing that he’s also king of the ballad, John performed an emotional “Daniel,” which had the arena crowd swaying, followed by “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” his lyrical battle between desperation and hope.
Two tunes off his latest studio effort, “Wonderful, Crazy Night,” introduced the crowd to new music with the same trusted, Elton John quality.
“Looking Up” delivered pure, up-tempo classic rock ‘n’ roll and featured expert guitar gills played out on a Fender Telecaster by lead player Davey Johnstone.
“Good Heart,” which John said is his favorite on the new album, came next. An inspired performance was rife with the thoughtful lyricism and brilliant piano composition John built his name on.
A funky “Philadelphia Freedom” got the house moving once again, while America-inspired graphics lit up the display behind the band, highlighting John’s red and blue outfit.
Thanking the crowd and taking a bow between each song, John took time for little else. He sat back down at his piano for a long instrumental which was both elegant and furious covering classical, blues and rock genres before launching into a boisterous ”Rocket Man,” one of his most famous hits.
The crowd sang with him word for word.
Unfortunately, John’s set was not finished at press time.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651