Is it just me, or has the chameleon-like Lady Gaga, master of so many different looks, now morphed into 1970s impressionist extraordinaire Marilyn Michaels?
You’ll have to be a certain age to get that reference, but since I am, that was one of the thoughts that flashed through my mind while watching the Elton John tribute on CBS last night. Others:
There is no such thing as an over-the-top outfit when you are paying tribute to Elton John. So, no matter what Gaga and Kesha and some of the other performers wore, it was tame when compared with the man who once wore a giant duck costume on stage.
It was really nice to see so much attention being paid to Bernie Taupin, who’s written the lyrics for Elton’s songs for 50 years. They may be the only songwriting duo to have been so successful for so long. Lennon and McCartney had a decade. Rodgers and Hammerstein went twice that. But half a century and still going? You might think I’m ignoring Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, but when was the last time The Rolling Stones had a song anyone remembers? I’m gonna say it was over 30 years ago, whereas Elton and Bernie have had hits into this century.
With the attention paid to Bernie, it would have been nice if anyone had mentioned that the musicians backing everyone up (Elton’s touring band) included drummer Nigel Olsson and guitarist Davey Johnstone, who have worked with him pretty much from the beginning. How many other sidemen in the business have a discography and concert history as deep as theirs?
While it was pleasant hearing modern pop stars like Miley Cyrus, Sam Smith, and SZA singing Elton’s tunes, I prefer the performers on the 1991 “Two Rooms” album, which featured cover versions of his songs by The Who, Eric Clapton, Sting, Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, and a great version of “Madman Across The Border” by Bruce Hornsby.
Is there a law that says John Legend must perform at every televised tribute show? Sure, the guy’s talented, but he’s becoming the musical equivalent of Jesse Plemons, who is legally required to appear in virtually every movie released in Hollywood these days.
There’s never any need for a TV director to cut away from a musical performance to show random white people in the audience singing along. Just show us the people talented enough to be on stage, not the ones who paid to watch them. And while I’m at it, there’s also never any reason to have Gayle King recite the lyrics to “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” while accompanied by a solo cello player. Never.
It could have been worse. They could have included the worst cover version of an Elton/Bernie song ever recorded, by Macy Gray and the late ODB. It’s so bad, I used to use it as punishment for Harris Challenge players who didn’t score enough points to win. Click play and you’ll quickly hear why…