Welcome To 2017, Music, Drama And All That We Discover

Sam Black

Almost Elton John
Almost Elton John

We have crossed over. I have written 2017 twice in the past couple of days, and I’ll get used to that pretty soon. Meanwhile, it is clearly winter, and those of us who call Duluth home will do what we need to do to clear the sidewalks, and get to the wide variety of local arts that are ours to enjoy. Happy New Year to all who join me in supporting our Local Arts.

“Goodbye England’s rose, may you ever grow in our hearts.”
“Goodbye Norma Jeane, though I never knew you at all.”

Do you have a preference?  In 1973 Bernie Taupin penned a lyric commemorating the death of Marilyn Monroe in the United States. In 1997, Elton John revised the lyrics on behalf of the death of Diana Spencer, former wife of Prince Charles, the English heir to the British throne. It has been said that in 1997 Elton John performed the revision at Lady Diana’s funeral, the only time Sir Elton has sung the song live.

Craig A. Meyer sang the song live this past Saturday night, although he did sing the Norma Jeane version. So it goes. You get to choose between Marilyn Monroe and Diana Spencer. Commercially, the song is only out-sold by the 1942 Bing Crosby recording of White Christmas, Irving Berlin’s dazzling composition for the movie “Holiday Inn.”

So where were you on Saturday night, the last entertaining evening of 2016?  I was at the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra show, with Jason Altieri on the podium, guest from Atlanta, GA, who frequently travels with Craig Meyer and hisTribute to Elton John. Altieri clearly had a wonderful dancing evening, and we enjoyed his enthusiasm. The house was full, the cell phones and lighters were in the air, and people were singing along with Meyer throughout the evening.

Frankly, I thought the show was a welcome treat to the end of 2016. I had no thoughts about the civil wars in Syria, Yemen, Turkey, and I had no thoughts about the troublesome American presidential scene for the coming few years. I sipped my coffee and let Almost Elton John take me back forty years to a world I ignored when it was new.

“Remember When Rock Was Young” was the title of the evening, but that took me back to the summer of 1954, when I received my first Elvis Presley recording with four hits from the early hip-swinging super star. Elton John was seven years old at the time, so I hope he was equally impressed.

Rock was much older in the 70s and 80s and the Saturday night show was spectacular. Meyer changed into four different gaudy costumes as the night went along, and he seemed to have energy to spare by the time we all sang “Auld lang syne.”  He clearly was enjoying the evening, his first visit to Duluth, MN.

My complaint of the evening was that the staff member at the sound control booth wanted to hear the orchestra, the backup singers, the guitarists, and the soloist at the same volume level. All was equal, so the singer’s words were never distinguishable in the auditorium. Too bad. I would like to have heard the texts, since I wasn’t actually familiar with more than one or two songs on the program. I was disappointed Meyer did not include the 1995 song ‘House,’ but the program was certainly full anyway.

From beginning to end, this was an exciting evening. “Don’t let the Sun Go Down on Me” was the only true way to end the evening, and Meyer sang with passion, even though he is not actually Elton John. He might have been, for the price of my ticket, and my year’s end musical delights were very satisfied by his musical and emotional presence.

Come with me down the musical and theatrical road of 2017.