Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Elton John - To Russia...With Elton

In 1979, Elton John found himself in a strange place in his career: he had largely stopped touring, he had made some odd forays into disco, and his records weren't getting as much traction. Moreover, he was sober, and newly out of the closet - both of which caused a change in both the delivery, and the public perception of, his persona. It was in this climate that he decided to tour the USSR.

While the only explanation given fro the choice of venue is that they "wanted to play in places they had never played", it can't really be stated enough how amazing it is to see a star of John's magnitude behind the iron curtain and loving every minute of it. The tour was a simple one, with Elton and his percussionist Ray Cooper. As a result, it was oddly reminiscent of his earliest 1970 shows as a piano-drum-bass trio. And, as is often the case with John, his solo performance is just as (if not more) incendiary than his full band show.

Luckily for his fans, the tour had a documentary filmmaker along for the ride, and the result is a 74 minute concert film that is among the best ever produced. It features fantastic performances, cultural insight of the 1970's cold war climate, and fascinating back stage glimpses. In short, everything a concert film should be, and the entire thing is on YouTube. If you're a fan of Elton, and you haven't checked out this film (embed above), now is the time. You won't be sorry.

(And, if that's not enough to satisfy you, then follow up with this Live In Australia video. Not quite as much of a "film", but the performances are equally wonderful, and feature the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.)