Forty years ago, Elton John performed his first U.S. concert at the Troubador, in Los Angeles, touring behind a self-titled album. A long, sometimes painful journey has yielded the British pop megastar five Grammy awards, a Tony award, a Kennedy Center Honor and knighthood in 1998 for his philanthropic contributions.
Sir Elton John performed to more than 18,000 multigeneration fans in Chula Vista Friday, despite experiencing symptoms from a stomach virus that forced a cancellation of his earlier Phoenix date. Slightly pale, the 63-year-old appeared onstage -- to the thunderous applause of fans -- shortly after 8 p.m. Wearing a black long-tailed tux with a royal-blue striped pants and coordinating shirt with royal-blue tinted sunglasses.
Opening with the never-ending "Funeral for a Friend" that blended into "Love Lies Bleeding," both off 1973's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," John silenced the audience with his strong, smooth baritone voice. Continuing with the classic track "Saturday Night's Alright," fans were on their feet, singing along with John.
By the end of the sixth song "Tiny Dancer," John acknowledged his illness with, "I have a stomach virus and you know what that means," which was received by laughter from the crowd. He continued, "I have to leave the stage for a few minutes," the five-minute potty break resulted in the only break John took. John returned to the stage and belted out the orchestral, disco-pop "Philadelphia Freedom," written for tennis great Billie Jean King, putting to rest any concerns that the virus would affect the rest of the performance. A patriotic collage of the American flag was displayed on a ginormous lighted curtain.
The singer/songwriter continued with popular hits during his set, includeding "Daniel," "Crocodile Rock," "I'm Still Standing" and "Don't Let the Sun Come Down," which was dedicated to a family sitting in the front row. Reminding us of his composing abilities, John's rip-roaring and exuberant piano playing was fast and sometimes furious. Of the 26-song set, most were hits, but John also performed "Never Too Old to Hold Somebody," off his upcoming album. That song was written with Leon Russell and was dedicated to another family not present at the concert.
After an onstage encore that included shaking front-row fans' hands and signing memorabilia, John returned to the piano and performed the Oscar-winner "Circle of Life," off the songtrack from Disney's "The Lion King." As a second-generation Elton John fan, his final song -- "Your Song" -- was written prior to my conception but remains my favorite of his massive catalog of hits. Sir Elton John dedicated the song to crowd and said, "This is the 40th anniversary of the 'Elton John' album and me coming to America," then added, "Thank you, San Diego for giving me love, kindness and loyalty."
Sir Elton John and his band -- including original members Nigel Olsson (drums) and Davey Johnstone (guitar), provided fans with nearly 90 minutes of electrifying music and heartfelt vocals.