Elton John and Leon Russell at US Airways Center Last Night

Categories: Last Night
Maria Vassett
Elton John

November 6, 2010
US Airways Center

Elton John and Leon Russell let their fingers do the talking at last night's show at the US Airways Center.

John was, of course, the main attraction and the singer's solo set was hit after hit, satisfying a crowd full of people who wanted to hear their favorite of his songs. Not that they all came out sounding just like on the albums. And not that his touring partner got the same reception.

"Rocket Man" was spiced up with some freestyle on the piano and a jammy electric guitar, followed by some reverb on the mic, which instigated a call and response with the crowd. The crowd echoed "Bennie!" and pumped their fists along with the piano chords during "Bennie and the Jets." And there's nothing like seeing old women stand up in their seats and air drum for the duration of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me."

Russell, a cult favorite who just recorded a critically-acclaimed album with John, who had opened for hi once-upon-a-time, and four soulful backup singers joined John for their shared set and full performance of their new album The Union. That mini-set began with Leon's "If It Wasn't For Bad" and continued with "Gone to Shiloh," a beautiful buzz kill about the American Civil War that finally allowed the crowd to take a break from grooving. Russell played "In the Hands of Angels," a song he wrote about Elton, which was the highlight of their joint set. The upbeat country style of "Jimmie Rodgers' Dream" would have brought everyone back to life if they were actually familiar with the song.

Maria Vassett

In fact, most of the time Elton and Leon shared the stage, the crowd only nodded their heads and watched the musicians play together like the show was some sort of exhibition rather than a rock concert. "I know it's hard," Elton said of everyone having sat patiently though the performance of The Union after it had concluded. "Thank you for being so good to Leon."

However, both of Elton's solo sets were a treat for a lot of people to relive the soundtrack to their childhood. The crowd sang along and danced in the aisles with each other like they were old friends that all grew up together with Elton's songs. (Oh wait, they were.)

Captain Fantastic hopped on top of his piano and got the show back in full swing again with "Tiny Dancer," "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues," "Take Me to the Pilot," and "Your Song," among plenty of other well-loved classics.

Maria Vassett

It was a very intimate show overall. Elton graciously stopped to show his love for the audience in between every song, reaching out his arms to them as though he was trying to embrace everyone all at once. He even signed front row fans' shirts and tickets, and shook and kissed their hands before beginning his encore.

Despite Leon Russell's great prominence, I'm particularly impressed with the new collaboration album, and it seemed like some of the crowd didn't think it was anything all that special either. I mean no disrespect to Russell, whom Elton John teamed up with to give his idol some spotlight, but the duo's performance of The Union in its entirety made it apparent that the crowd was largely there for Elton John.

Critic's notebook:

Last night: Elton John and Leon Russell at US Airways Center.

Personal bias: None really. As someone who enjoys the essentials of rock, I really like Elton John even though there's no way for me to appreciate him as much as my mom did, since I wasn't around in his prime. Plus, Elton John and Billy Joel's Face 2 Face tour was one of the better shows I saw in 2009.

The crowd: Just about everyone was 40 or older. A lot of mothers in attendance, some wearing feather boas, were dressed in their best rock star wife get-up like it was the one night a month they have to enjoy themselves for girls' night out. Men came out to the show in their most flamboyant button downs. Those folks know how to party though. I sure hope I'm as much fun as last night's crowd when I get to be their age.

Overheard: "I feel like this concert is a birthday present for a lot of moms." Also: "I love you, Elton!" - a 50-year-old woman who clearly said it in the "I want to have your babies" kind of way, even though that will never happen for multiple obvious reasons.

Random notebook dump: Even though Elton and Leon's The Union Tour and Elton and Billy Joel's Face 2 Face Tour are on two separate planes of comparison, the Face 2 Face show was much better.


Leon Russell

Tight Rope

Out in the Woods

Prince of Peace

A Song for You

Delta Lady

Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms

Stranger in a Strange Land


Elton John

Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting)

Philadelphia Freedom

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Rocket Man

Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me

Bennie and the Jets

I'm Still Standing


Elton John and Leon Russell

If It Wasn't For Bad

Hey Ahab

Gone to Shiloh

Jimmie Rodgers' Dream

There's No Tomorrow

Monkey Suit

The Best Part of the Day

A Dream Come True

When Love Is Dying

Hearts Have Turned to Stone

Never Too Old (To Hold Somebody)

In the Hands of Angels


Elton John

Burn Down the Mission


Tiny Dancer

Ballad of a Well-Known Gun

I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues

Take Me to the Pilot

Sad Songs Say So Much

The Bitch Is Back



Your Song

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Billymady, FYI, Elton tour throughout the world every year in various combinations, solo, with band, with percussionist Ray Cooper, in past year with Billy Joel, and this year leon Russell. He was in Tucson with just his band a couple months back. Just because the last couple times he's come to Phoenix it has been with someone, doesn't mean it's that way everywhere, Phoenix is not the capitol of the universe. Get informed.

Larry Rowe
Larry Rowe

This reviewers 'review', if it can be called that, just shows the critics ignorance of the history between these two performers. That Elton's carrier went to the top and Leon's to the bottom ( Leon's own words, ;^) ) is just a part of the story. Leon's influence on popular music and Elton John in particular was outlined by Elton on CBC Radio this morning. There's more to being a reviewer/critic than being critical. Obviously some things about this special tour and musical collaboration have gone over Lenni's head, to put it politely.


Larry Rowe


Geezer rock is stronger than ever...why does Elton always need to travel with someone else?

Anyway, Geezer Rock fans, take a trip back to the glory days of the mighty Led Zeppelin and space movies as you are taken on a trip that won't cost you $100 to see Elton and Leon dance around in $1000 suits!





Can anyone tell me what his jacket said? It was a topic of discussion in my group the whole night...


I was almost put to sleep last year at the Elton/Bill show. I think I made a wise decision on skipping this one.


We were falling asleep during "The Union"...so we left early......

Gloria Shiraef
Gloria Shiraef

Slight correction, since there's no editing function. I meant to say: And last I knew, a new song should never be dissed for being new and unheard, but rather "judged" by artistic merit, which The Union has in spades.

Gloria Shiraef
Gloria Shiraef

Let's hope this reviewer will be 1/10th as relevant to the music world in about 50 years when he reaches his 60's like Leon and Elton. Maybe a slightly more mature reviewer would have remembered to proofread, at the least.

Phoenix New Times should think twice about who they send to review a concert that would be understandably attended by those who grew up with much of this music. It's obvious Mr. Rosenblum has a kid's view of music and anyone older than him. And last I knew, a new song should never be dissed for being new and unheard, but rather by artistic merit, which The Union has in spades.

And to twist what Elton said as an apology for Leon is just plain wrong. He loves the guy, and plenty of new and old fans love him, too.

I would add something about how disrespectful he was to Leon, but that would be like saying that what this guy says, matters.

A word to the wise: Maybe this reviewer/critic should read some of the other reviews from this tour, much to learn there. A refresher course in journalistic writing isn't a bad idea, either. Too bad you can't teach someone objectivity or musical tastes.


The show was stellar! If only we had gotten something off the Lion King soundtrack, it would have been a complete experience

George Mathis
George Mathis

I'm a fan of both - but probably more of a fan of Leon's. I heard a story on NPR last week about the long history between these two, and was intrigued by the very high esteem Elton holds for Leon. I must say, I'm somewhat disappointed in this revirew by Lenni Rosenblum that there's not one picture of Leon. Give us a break and provide a little balance please.


I took my parents (54 and 51) - they loved it. I thought it was a good show overall. You definitely got your money's worth for the 3+ hour show. Hearing The Union in its near entirety (no "Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes") was the highlight for me. The only gripe that I had was that the background singers were louder than Elton and Leon.

Lenni Rosenblum
Lenni Rosenblum

Just because I wasn't thrilled with something doesn't mean I thought it was bad whatsoever. Elton and Leon played a fantastic show...I'm just not crazy about their new album. Age doesn't necessarily have anything to do with understanding an artist's prominence either. And while there were plenty of people in attendance who were there for Russell as well, most people didn't get into their shared set as much as they did for either of Elton's solo sets.

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