Elton John at Outside Lands 2015

I was getting ready to leave for the Outside Lands festival when my mother phoned me. She had some sort of plumbing problem at her house. She also asked me about my Super Bowl tickets. On CBS Sunday Morning, I saw a Serena Altschul segment about a person who collects pizza boxes. I spent a few minutes at the coffee shop before heading over to the bus stop to catch the F bus. It took quite a while to cross the Bay Bridge. I took the 5 bus down Fulton to Golden Gate Park. I went through the VIP entrance into the VIP area, where I was tempted to buy a ranch burger. I continued to the main part of the festival. At the merchandise booth, I bought a T-shirt and a blanket, and at another booth I bought a water bottle. I saw a line of people waiting to buy ramenburgers, so I figured I should get one. It tasted OK but wasn’t hot, and neither were the avocado fries. I walked around the grounds. I skipped the ice cream and the cupcake and headed for the benches. By that time, Shakey Graves was almost done with the first set on the Polo Field. Next up was St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Their lead singer made me think of Drew Carey and Paul Blart. I went to use the restrooms a lot. The third set was from Nate Ruess, who didn’t get the crowd very excited in his attempts to get them to sing. He sang Prince’s “Let’s Get Crazy,” almost exactly as I remembered it from the “Purple Rain” album. His face to me was like a blend of Marky Mark and John Cougar Mellencamp. I stayed in my seat until Hot Chip played. Their drummer, Sarah Jones, looked as if she was making a real difference. Their lead singer made me think of Dana Carvey, and he was wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt. They had electronic sounds in their music that made me flash back to Giorgio Moroder. They performed their rendition of Bruce Springsteen’ “Dancing in the Dark.” I had spent the afternoon sitting on a bench conserving my energy, but for Sam Smith, I made my way towards the stage, getting as close as I could. I think I did pretty well in not going there at eleven o’clock in the morning. The young fans loved Sam Smith and all of his songs about love. I saw him in a similar light as Bread. They did “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” We had to wait 45 minutes for Elton John. I could have used a rest, but the crowd was packed. Elton opened with “The Bitch is Back.” He would stand up and take a bow and urge the crowd to get louder after every song. He went into “Bennie and the Jets.” During the set, I would think that he was better at the softer songs. His voice has suffered some wear over the years. He must be sick of playing the same tunes year after year. Everyone knew the lyrics to “Candle in the Wind,” or at least the chorus. I’m not sure why Elton included “All the Young Girls Love Alice.” Davey Johnstone’s guitar went over well on the number. Elton played an extended “Levon.” I thought that he could have kept it shorter and added another song to the set list. His jacket had a Captain Fantastic logo on it, but he didn’t play any songs from “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” or “Rock of the Westies.” I wonder how many young fans knew the song “Tiny Dancer” from the “Almost Famous” movie. It was one of the songs that went over best with the crowd. They didn’t really respond to “Daniel,” though, which I thought was one of Elton’s best songs. I thought “Philadelphia Freedom” could have been struck from the set, partly because it mentioned another city. Elton’s singing wasn’t sharp on the song, too. The audience responded well to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” It sounded good, and I guess everyone knew the reference to “The Wizard of Oz.” Everyone seemed to like “Rocket Man,” which is Elton’s “Space Oddity.” Elton talked about how Leon Russell was his idol, and he went into “Hey Ahab.” I have to confess that I haven’t listened much to the album “The Union,” even though I thought it was good after listening to it a few times. “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” had lyrics that got lost in the air, I think. It must be difficult to sing this song well. I thought the highlight of the set was “Your Song.” It was a song about youth, and the crowd was mostly young. I liked the part about buying a big house. “Burn Down the Mission” was the one song from the “Tumbleweed Connection.” It was on Elton’s first live album, and it makes me think about those very early days. I thought “Sad Songs Say So Much” could have been reworked. I felt that I couldn’t hear anything in it. It could have used that gentle touch that’s mentioned in the lyrics. “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” was another strong song. I thought it would have connected with the Sam Smith fans, but I didn’t know what their state of mind was at this point in the night. The crowd was enthusiastic but not crazy. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” is one of Elton’s best songs. I don’t know if the young people knew the words, and if they missed George Michael. “I’m Still Standing” is Elton’s “I Will Survive.” It’s not really one of my favorites. During the song, they showed numerous photos of Elton over the years. It’s a shame that I couldn’t have seen him forty years ago, or at least in 1982. “Your Sister Can’t Twist” is a fun song, although Elton has another song that brings back Fifties nostalgia, so he could have gone with a different tune. It might have been helpful to the crowd if Elton had told the crowd how many times to sing “Saturday” before “Saturday night’s all right” in the last number before the encore. The night ended with “Crocodile Rock.” Elton left the la-la-la-la-la’s to the crowd. I questioned whether he could hit those notes anymore. The crowd wanted one more song, but time had run out on the festival. One thing I wished that Elton could have done was to mention Bernie Taupin at some point. I learned that I share a birthday with Nigel Olsson, although he is older than I am. I thought it was great that he’s been with Elton since 1969. I had the lingering feeling that I had seen Elton forty years too late. I also had the chance to see him in 1982 but didn’t. Still, listening to him, I was impressed with the imagination and life he could put into a song. I’ll always have good memories of listening to those albums from “Honky Chateau” through “Blue Moves.” It was tough getting out of the park and to the 38 Geary bus line. One girl behind me kept singing that “it’s going to be a long, long time” before anybody could get out of the park and back home. The bus was packed. I overheard two girls talking about how good the plantain burritos were. If I go to the festival next year, I’ll have to try them. I finally home got just after midnight. I put away my stuff and had thoughts about 2016. Some of the people who died on August 10 include Robert Goddard (1945), Tony Wilson (2007), and Isaac Hayes (2008). Today is a birthday for Antonio Banderas (55), Rosanna Arquette (56), and Ian Anderson (68). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for August 10, the original Rin Tin Tin was nearly 14 years old when he died in 1932. In 1970, “Diary of a Mad Housewife,” starring Richard Benjamin, Frank Langella, and Carrie Snodgress, was released.

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