Elton John

ELTON’s 64th AT THE GARDEN --- I’ve seen Elton John many, many times over the years; I was there when Andy Warhol dropped by and, there when he brought out Debbie Gibson and Billy Joel to sing “Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds.” Last night, I saw him again at NYC’s Madison Square Garden, his 64th show there, and I think it was the best show I've ever seen him do. His latest album The Diving Board has been pretty much overlooked by rock radio, although there are some tremendous tracks there, including “Home Again” –which he did perform last night- “Oscar Wilde Gets Out” and the title track which sadly were not. That said, the entire show was clearly a look back at his career with special emphasis on his ground-breaking 1973 album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – which is due for a special re-issue next year.

Opening as usual with “Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”, he also did one of my favorites, the sapphic anthem “All The Girls Love Alice” and “Grey Seal,” both from GYBR. I was also delighted that he performed “The One” and “Believe,” two tracks that I feel perfectly epitomizes John’s superlative writing, along with partner Bernie Taupin for 46 years.

His band, which features new members Kim Bullard and Matt Bissonette were superb; anchored perfectly by guitarist Davey Johnstone, who’s been with him for years, as well as drummer Nigel Olsson. Johnstone, dressed in a black suit and skinny tie, little by little stripped down to just his white shirt. Johnston (and I do very well remember his great bands Magna Carta and Warpipes) was just stunning; spot on perfect. He also had an amazing array of guitars, including the shortest flying-V guitar I've ever seen for “Saturday Night Alright For Fighting.” It was amazing yet again, to hear Johnstone and Olsson do those amazing signature backup harmonies in John’s classic songs. It was very much like hearing them again for the first time.

John said at one point, “If the mood tonight has been a little reflective with some of the song choices, then so be it,” he said. “Because I'm at the stage in my life where it’s nice to reflect.” The SRO-crowd was totally in line with that sentiment as well. As a John-observer from afar, he’s earned the right to play exactly what he wants, and while songs like “Crocodile Rock,” may well be past their shelf-date … they're still excellent to listen to and review them once again. He'll be in Russia in two days and joked that he might wind up in a gulag if he’s not careful because of his human right’s initiatives. A tremendous artist in every way. Definitely one of the best shows this year.

SPADER SHINING --- We've loved James Spader for years; be it his roles in Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989), or Pretty In Pink (1986), or even his terrific run in the TV series Boston Legal, the Boston-native has been just outstanding. I never really became a devotee of Legal, but when I did watch scenes between him and co-star William Shatner, he just nailed each and every moment.

His TV show The Blacklist, debuting this past September, ended its fall-run at the top. I believe I read somewhere that the ratings were higher than any NBC show in 19 years! And, deservedly so, in my opinion. His line readings are just superb and when he’s onscreen, you cannot take your eyes off him. I do believe he is the best actor on TV right now.

CLOSING NOTES --- Martial-artist master Paul Mormando is finessing up his new movie Double Fist. Stay tuned here for more details …

Just watched the Paul McCartney appearance on NBC’s Jimmy Fallon from last month; Macca was just terrific and the song “Save Me,” from his new album New smoked from start to finish and the encore “Lady Madonna” with The Roots was none too shabby. I have yet to enjoy the album in full, but, face it, the kid’s still got it…

Movie-mogul Robert Evans (he produced The Godfather and Love Story, among other masterpieces) has his follow up memoir to The Kid Stays In The Picture, The Fat Lady Sings, out this week. Evans is a raconteur of the first order and his exploits with Jack Nicholson and Roman Polanski are the stuff of dreams. The debut book was just sensational. Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter produced a movie on it. Can’t wait to read it…

The Rascals have canceled their upcoming run on Broadway of their concert/multimedia event Once Upon a Dream. The show played earlier this year and was scheduled for a second run from December 16 to January 5. The show's producers issued a statement saying: Due to scheduling conflicts with director, writer, and producer Stevie Van Zandt, the New York run for Once Upon A Dream Starring The Rascals has been canceled at this time.

The producers hope to reschedule when Van Zandt's schedule, which involves balancing the filming of the third season of his Netflix show Lilyhammer, and touring with Bruce Springsteen among other things, stabilizes. We regrettably missed the first run and was looking forward to this second presentation. We hope it gets rescheduled soon...

I never fully understood what Nelson Mandela accomplished until I visited his prison cell in South Africa. Then it became abundantly clear what a spiritual and political leader he was … and, still is. He was incarcerated there for 27 years. His passing yesterday was somewhat expected, but still, when the news came across the wire, you still held your breath for a minute or two. Ironically, the terrific new movie, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (with Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Terry Pheto, and, Robert Hobbs) opens today. RIP Nelson!