The fact that Elton John's days on the road are coming to an end seem to be getting the best of the “Rocket Man.” Musical director and longtime guitarist Davey Johnstone spoke with EltonJohn.com in commemoration of his recent 3,000th career gig with Elton, and shed light on how his boss is dealing with saying goodbye.
Johnstone revealed, “I’m finding that especially in the last four or five shows it’s been more emotional for Elton, actually. And the people I can see in the first few rows, you can see a few teary eyes and people losing it a little bit towards the end of the set every night. But he’s getting more emotional. I think it’s a combination of the response of the audience and the way we are all playing. I think it’s finally getting to him a little bit. He’s gotten a bit tongue-tied and choked up when he’s introducing (the band) and he thanks the audience and says goodbye. The response gets so gigantic that I think it’s kicking in for him. He may not have been expecting that.”
Johnstone, who joined the original Elton John Band in time for the 1971 Madman Across the Water sessions, went on to say that life on the road with Elton these days is a world away from how it was back in the 1970's: “I’ve done tours back in our naughty days where I never left the hotel, except to get more cigarettes and more vodka, but I realized that’s no way to carry on and so I make good use of getting out and seeing the town that I’m in, if I have the time. If we have a night off, I’m like, 'what a great opportunity.' I think it shows a bit of respect to yourself and to life in general.”
When asked how Elton reacted when Johnstone told him he had hit the 3,000th show mark, Johnstone said he sent him an email that said, “'3,000 shows. . . f***!' And his response to me straight away was, 'My God. . . that’s a lot of shows!' It’s pretty wild to think that I’ve done that many shows with a guy like him, y'know? I mean, no one else is out there doing that many gigs.”
When we last caught up with Davey Johnstone, he told us that Elton is considering fitting in a few deep cut rarities shows for the die-hard fans. Johnstone explained told that what the uber-fans want is different from what the vast majority of concert-goers are paying to see: “Maybe, let's say, 10 percent hardcore fans who think that the tour should be deep cuts and stuff we never heard. But, y'see that's so unrealistic, because as much as I love playin' these songs and listening to them, it's not what your average guy wants.”
Johnstone — who's the only member of Elton's band to have never been fired by Elton over the years — explained what the super fans can look for somewhere in the near future: “Y'know, down the road, we're thinkin' maybe, occasionally we'll do a small show here and there where we'll include, basically all deep cuts and all interesting songs that nobody would expect us to do.”
Elton John performs on Friday and Saturday (October 4th and 5th) at Winnipeg's Bell MTS Place.