The Rocket Man is on his way to Tel Aviv. Sir Elton John will be the bloke in shades sitting onstage behind a grand piano in Yarkon Park next Thursday, May 26, for his fourth concert in Israel and his first in six years.
This time, John is on tour promoting “Wonderful Crazy Night,” his 32nd studio album and his third straight album with co-producer T Bone Burnett and American singer/songwriter Leon Russell.
John has said that his collaboration with Russell marks a new chapter in his recording career.
“I don’t have to make pop records any more,” he said.
It’s true. Elton John is not his seventies self, with his hair far shorter at 68, but he’s still got his shades, diamond earring and glitzy suits.
Critics have also called this latest album a return to Elton John’s unique form of pensive and joyful moods, with bold sounds that hark back to his early classic LPs such as “Tumbleweed Connection” and “Honky Chateau.”
The lead song of the album, “Wonderful Crazy Night,” is the kind of music Israeli fans of John will recognize from his immensely successful ’70s period. While it’s not as recognizable as those familiar hits, they’re the kinds of songs that force people up from their lawn chairs to dance.
Ditto for “Looking Up,” a familiar kind of boppy Elton John that can get listeners nodding their heads with the music. “In the Name of You” is a trip down the memory land of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” with a deeply joyous, groovy sound.
Of course, the remarkable Sir John has never stopped making new music: 2013 brought the pensive “The Diving Board,” and 2010 “The Union,” another collaboration with Russell. These were albums that were well-regarded by critics but less popular among fans.
Now the emphasis is on good times and thoughtful, easily remembered lyrics with “Wonderful Crazy Night,” whose words were written by John’s longtime writing partner Bernie Taupin.
There’s also the piano, always the piano, and it feels like Elton John is back where he should be. This time, he’s bringing the new album — and old hits, as well, not to worry — to the Tel Aviv stage.
Like last time, he has pooh-poohed threats from BDS activists. There was a brief brouhaha in March when his Israel promoter, Shuki Weiss, claimed at an anti-BDS conference in Jerusalem that Elton John was asked to declare loyalty to the Jewish state before the upcoming concert in order to forestall the possibility that he’s be pressured to cancel.
The Interior Ministry responded by calling the claim “delusional,” and the entire matter was dropped.
In 2010, after other cancellations and near-cancellations by performers following the controversial fatal Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla, John said that he and other musicians should not “cherry-pick our conscience.” His quote referred to his fellow Brit Elvis Costello, who canceled an Israel concert that summer, citing his conscience.
For those who don’t make it to the Tel Aviv concert, there are other options for enjoying John’s higher baritone of recent years.
The 68-year-old is relaunching his film career as well, having just confirmed that he’ll be in “Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle,” the sequel to spy thriller “Kingsman,” about a street tough turned secret agent, starring Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum and Halle Berry and possibly fellow Brit Colin Firth.
John confirmed his appearance through his Instagram account, with a poster featuring Union Jack glasses and the phrase “Wednesday night’s alright for fighting,” referencing his own song.
A post shared by Elton John (@eltonjohn) on
“It’s been a long time since Tommy…..#Kingsman” he wrote on Instagram.
He also has a brief appearance in the documentary “All Things Must Pass,” about the beloved Tower Records chain of stores.
And for a steady diet of John’s music, fans can tune in to Elton John’s Rocket Hour, his Apple iTunes radio show that airs three times a week, with a selection of old songs and new releases from his favorite artists.
John is clearly a man of long relationships and deep connections. He has worked with his Los Angeles agent, Howard Rose, for 46 years, and his writing partner, Bernie Taupin, for 48 years.
But there are newer relationships as well. John and his partner, David Furnish, have two sons, Zachary and Elijah, who are 5 and 3, and besides his ten godchildren, including Sean Lennon, David and Victoria Beckham’s sons Brooklyn and Romeo, and Elizabeth Hurley’s son Damian, John calls pop star Lady Gaga his spiritual daughter.
With her own penchant for wild costumes and theatrical staging, the two are working together on some music, and she is his children’s godmother.