Zooming into town in February 2013, Sir Elton John returns to São Paulo with a show marking the 40th anniversary of his legendary, wistful hit ‘Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)’ from the 1972 album Honky Château, and from a period also graced by Elton John songs that included ‘Daniel’, ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’, and the gorgeous ‘Tiny Dancer’.
Following a flirtation with his own particularly non-threatening version of glam rock, John’s output during the 1980s was characterised by continuing triumphs in the pop mainstream – ‘I’m Still Standing’, ‘Nikita’, ‘Sacrifice’ – before the 1990s arrived to morph the bespectacled piano player into a ubiquitous member of the UK pop establishment ,with a status, and a cool rating, a bit like the Queen’s. Elton John transcended mere stardom and popularity a long time ago – but it’s also been a long, long time since he’s been considered cool.
Not that that should be of the slightest concern to John himself, who enjoys a residency at Las Vegas Caesars Palace, and whose annual AIDS foundation Oscar party is one of the hottest tickets in town. And with the help of a few well chosen partnerships, the veteran pop star has been having a mini renaissance in the 2010s: he teamed up with the US pianist Leon Russell in 2010 to record the critically praised LP, The Union, in 2010, while an imaginative 2012 remix album by the Australian duo Pnau, Good Morning to the Night, yielded another UK number one album.
As reported in an interview with Time Out Sydney, where Pnau is based, the long-time Elton John collaborators ‘were given access to the multitracks of Elton’s extraordinary early ‘70s catalogue, from which they took different elements – a vocal take here, a brass lick there, one song’s piano and another’s drum patterns – and built them into entirely new songs.’ It’s not quite Madonna, reinventing herself decade on decade, but 40 years on, it’s not a bad way to proceed.