(VENICE, ITALY) Sir Elton John's performance in Piazza San Marco on Wednesday night, July 9th, underlined why he was knighted. He played with a quiet nobility that radiated enormous power. He was not flamboyant. He let his music do the talking, and when he spoke, his words were simple and dignified.
Napoleon is often credited with calling Piazza San Marco "the drawing room of Europe," but Wikipedia informs us that perhaps it should be attributed to Alfred de Musset (and you know how nitpicky those Wikipedia people can be:). In any event, whoever said it, the atmosphere was exactly like that: as if we were in a grand drawing room, and Sir Elton John was entertaining his guests.
The show was sold out, and to be honest, I didn't make any effort to go, but a friend called and offered a pass at the last moment. So, of course, I went! The pass allowed me to wander everywhere, and I found myself fortunate enough to land in about the tenth row, with an unobstructed view, sitting next to Carl Pagan, from the Casino di Venezia -- which happens to be the oldest casino in the world, and accounts for about 40% of Venice's income. So, of course, during the show, in the pauses between songs, I harangued Carlo about various problems around town. Poor Carlo! Just when he thinks he can relax during an Elton John concert, he finds himself sitting next to Cat Bauer!
To his credit, he hung in there and listened. So, who knows what the future many bring:)
Elton sang hit after hit after hit. It seems impossible for one human being to have so many hits, but he has them. We have grown up with Elton; Elton is always there. We have suffered with him. We have rejoiced with him. We have tried to kill him, but he did not die. The Queen has knighted him for his grand endurance and now we embrace him and ask him to do charity shows.
Elton performed this concert on behalf of SMS, which is a clever acronym for "San Marco Square" and "Short Message System." Elton raised money to fix up San Marco Square. Now, we can be sure that Elton does not have to do this. So, why would he? Well, he lives here. And I will judge by the few words he used to introduce the last song, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," that he cares.
He said, "This is dedicated to everyone who likes to live in Venice," or something to that effect. But it was weary, serious, profound. We are all very tired these days over here in the Magic Kingdom, as are most people with souls throughout the world. And then he sang, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." If you have ever had the Sun go down on you, and most of us have, you will understand. I think Bernie Taupin is one of our greatest lyricists. Elton would not be Elton without Bernie's words:
I can't light no more of your darkness
All my pictures seem to fade to black and white
I'm growing tired and time stands still before me
Frozen here on the ladder of my lifeToo late to save myself from falling
I took a chance and changed your way of life
But you misread my meaning when I met you
Closed the door and left me blinded by the lightDon't let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it's always someone else I see
I'd just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
But losing everything is like the sun going down on me
I can't find, oh the right romantic line
But see me once and see the way I feel
Don't discard me just because you think I mean you harm
But these cuts I have they need love to help them heal
(Watch the YouTube video below)
I wish I had some photos, but I always have to depend upon photographers, and they do not always come through, and there are, surprisingly, slim pickings on the net (none of the photos I am using are from the actual show). The last camera I had was destroyed during Carnevale two years ago by Red Wine within a week after purchase. The shop where I bought it in Venice sent it back to the dealer in Milano, without a reason, and the Milano shop wrote back: WE HAVE EXAMINED THIS CAMERA, AND IT WAS DESTROYED BY RED WINE. THEREFORE, WE DO NOT UPHOLD OUR WARRANTY. And, they were right! It WAS destroyed by Red Wine, but not by drunkenness -- it was because I dropped my shopping bag, and the camera was in the bag with the red wine -- there are witnesses! The Venice shop told the Milan shop, "Well, after all, it IS Carnevale."
If you can understand that story, you will understand part of the reason why Venice is sad -- so many people from Milano (and other places) have bought apartments here for profit, caring only about the money, and nothing about the Soul of Venice. If someone from Milano sent a camera back to Venice destroyed by Red Wine, the Venetians would laugh and say, "Well, THAT'S a good reason! It's Carnevale, after all. Give them another!"
After I published this blog, I asked Alex Ruffini from 2StarPhoto, one of my Venetian MySpace buddies, if he had any photos from the show. He said he didn't have a pass that night, but did manage to get the photo you see there on your left. Thanks, Alex! Alex does rock photography, and if you'd like to have a look at more of his work, go to http://www.2starsphoto.com/
Below is a video of Elton singing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" from his 60th birthday last year. Bill Clinton is there, among many other people.
This year, Elton's voice is battle-worn, and his hair is grey, but his scars become him. He looks better than ever. To me, he is a reflection of the past year. Last year was not an easy year for many of us.
How amazing one song can be! It united us all! There were lighters lit, and we All Became One. When the people chanted his name, it sounded like this: "Eel-ton! Eel-ton!"
Thank you, Elton, for adding your great voice to the song of Venice.
Ciao from Venice,