Handsome Hubby and I took a trip down the (graying) yellow brick road this past weekend and oh, what a trip it was! More precisely, we went to see Elton John perform, part of his multi-city, multi-year “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” concert tour.
It was Handsome Hubby’s idea. He is a big Elton fan. I was too back in the day, but traveling down memory lane, spending lots of money to see aging rockers perform goldie oldies wasn’t my idea of a good time.
But HH wanted to go. So, off we went, memories (and pricy tickets) in hand, to the concert at Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors, in Oakland, Ca.
We jump-hobbled onto the BART (subway), where we were greeted by a sea of gray-haired seniors all bound for rock and roll glory! You would have thought there was an AARP Convention in town!
Instead of Friday night BART boom boxes blaring, dozens of conversations around us were blaring at full volume – as befits a group of old rockers with burned out hearing!
“My very first album was …”
“This is my 17th Elton concert.”
“I first saw Elton in 1998.”
“Yeah, well, I saw him in ’78.”
There were heated debates about a favorite song, favorite album. On and on it went. Non-stop through each and every stop as more and more denim-clad elders boarded the BART.
If This Car’s A-Rockin’
The atmosphere was raucous and joyful. Although when one woman boasted in a LOUD VOICE that she had an autographed album cover of Madman Across the Water, silence ensued. I never knew envy had a smell, but at that moment, the subway reeked of it!
It was like being with a pack of high schoolers!
Yes, it was a happenin’ scene! But instead of drinking contraband booze, this crowd was sipping Peet’s Coffee by the paper cupful, caffeinated no doubt to stay up for this rare late-night rock outing.
Priority Seating? I’d Rather Die
As the subway grew more congested, I noticed something interesting. People were avoiding those usually-at-a-premium priority seats by the door, you know the ones reserved for the elderly, infirm and pregnant – the ones seniors usually make a bee-line for during busy weekday commuter hours. Not tonight. People avoided those seats like the plague, like death! Yes, indeed. No elder Elton John groupie was going to be caught dead claiming one of those seats tonight!
When we arrived at the stadium, I noticed the parking lot was surprisingly empty for the sold-out concert. Then it hit me. No wonder the subway was so crowded. Everybody had taken BART. The thrill of the music was intact, but the thrill of driving was replaced by the reality of diminished night vision!
Yeah, “The Bitch is Back” and she is definitely Old Age!
Glam or Geritol
Just outside the arena, we dutifully queued up for the mandatory security screening. Where once wild teens tried sneaking in beer cans and joints, now we oldsters tried concealing water bottles to pop our (prescribed) evening meds on time.
I pleaded to bring in a piece of fruit, explaining I was dieting and couldn’t eat nachos. But, just like in the old days, there was no point fighting “The Man.” My apple and all those water bottles were left behind in the designated trash receptacles. Bummer, dude!
Inside, the line outside the ladies’ room was ridiculously long. All us middle-aged gals and our middle-aged bladders were taking no chances. We knew to pee before we partied.
Once seated, I looked around. Most everybody looked like my AARP-ish BART subway buddies. We were a decidedly glitter-free and glam-less group. Few of my 20,000 friends sported oversized flamboyant eyeglasses, although bi- and trifocals were on prominent display. And as for our grove? Well, we were less hip. More hip replacement.
Let the Music Begin
And what about that aging rocker, the star of the show? Well, like I said. I was skeptical about going to the concert. But when Elton John appeared on stage, I got really worried. The 71-year-old EHJ has clearly lost his battle of the bulge, packing on more than a few pounds. (I know – Who am I to talk?) And he was definitely moving slow. (Again, I know – Who am I to criticize?)
Then Elton John opened his mouth and started singing. Wow! The man still has got powerful singing chops. Performing for 50+ years, not only can he still belt out a tune but also pound a keyboard into powerful, melodic submission. Belt out a tune? How about performing for 2 ½ hours and running through a playlist of 20+ songs? The audience was up on its feet, dancing, singing along, and cheering.
And through it all – and best of all – Elton John displayed charm, grace, and gratitude. He talked about his half-century musical partner Bernie Taupin, his equally impressive decades-long association with the musicians performing with him on stage, about the role Aretha Franklin played in advancing his career, about being clean and sober since the mid-90s, and about the Elton John AIDS Foundation ($400 million raised).
Farewell Yellow Brick Road
Launched in September, the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour runs through 2021. The 300 concerts will cover five continents. All I can say is that for a guy who is moving slow, Elton John is certainly covering a lot of territory AND living up to his middle name – Hercules!
Summing up his career, he said, “The greatest thrill of all is playing for another human being and getting a response.”
As we left the concert, I bought a pair of souvenir glam rose-colored glasses. Why? Not just as an homage, but because I’m determined to age like Elton John. In my own (non-stadium-filling) way, I want to connect with people, bring joy, and, all the while, look honestly at myself – the good, the mistakes, and the funny.
Yeah, if that “Bitch – Old Age – is on my – Back,” fair enough. Bring it on.