There is no other word for Elton John but prolific. Start counting his hits and you need a calculator. Take a look at his career, from "Madman Across the Water" to "The Lion King" to a forthcoming "The Devil Wears Prada" musical, and you need binoculars. Along with lyricist partner Bernie Taupin, the musician has done it all and hasn't stopped in decades.
But Sir Elton is slowing down.
The 69-year-old musician will perform at Eugene's Matthew Knight Arena on Saturday as part of a mere 11-city tour, a drop in the bucket after the thousands of dates he's played since 1970. (John puts the official career-long count at close to 4,000.) It's not age that's holding him back now, but family.
"The simple truth is I want to spend more time with my family and less time touring," John said in a statement. "I am all too aware of how precious the time ahead is. My sons are growing up so quickly. Their early years are just flying by and I want to be there with them."
The musician and husband David Furnish have two boys, Zachary, born in 2010, and Elijah, who followed in 2013. The kids are regulars on Furnish's Instagram account.
Birthdays don't come any sweeter than this! I want to thank all my friends and family for their kind birthday wishes. I am a very lucky man indeed. @eltonjohn #blessed #grateful #sharethelove
John's latest studio album is "Wonderful Crazy Night," a T Bone Burnett-produced release that found him "once again ready to have fun," according to critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine. It's music that reflects his settled state of mind.
"This is a happy album," he explained to Rolling Stone last year. "Because I've never been happier."
And John has found a second home in Las Vegas: the Eugene date is a return to the Wonderful Crazy Night Tour following a February run at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. John has performed regularly there with his show The Million Dollar Piano since 2011, nearly 200 shows. For many artists with families, from Britney Spears to Celine Dion, the Vegas route has been a way to balance stability with music.
For an artist who once routinely logged over 100 nights on the road, it's a new chapter. But if John's touring days are coming to a close, he's given Oregonians no shortage of opportunities to see him. Outside of an odd 15-year gap in the '80s and early '90s, John's been a Pacific Northwest regular. He played Portland's Moda Center solo in 2014 and alongside Billy Joel in 2010, and was one of the newly opened Matthew Knight Arena's first performers in 2011. (Joel, solo, will be back in Portland in December.)
According to the fan site Eltonography, he's played 13 previous Oregon concerts in all, starting from an April 1971 performance and on through five shows at Veterans Memorial Coliseum and six at the Moda Center, formerly the Rose Garden Arena.
That 1971 show seems to have been lost to the mists of time: none of the John fan sites know the venue, and there's no mention in the Oregonian archives for that month. But his Aug. 30, 1973 return got a rave review from the Oregonian's John Wendeborn for a night at the Memorial Coliseum attended by 12,000: "He moves an audience like no one else, creating enthusiasm while obviously enjoying himself."
Some things never change.
The Wonderful Crazy Night Tour's press release promises John favorites: "Your Song," "Rocket Man," "Bennie and the Jets," "Philadelphia Freedom," "Crocodile Rock" and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," among his many hits. Each of those tracks made his recent Vegas nights, with "Tiny Dancer," "Levon" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" also on the list.
But when the night winds down, and the tour wraps up, the piano man will head back to his family. Catch him while you can.
"I wanted to die on the stage. That's all I had. Now I don't," he told Rolling Stone. "I've got children. I want to come off the road. I want to be there, I want to take them to baseball, I want to take them to soccer games. My life is completely changed."
Saturday, March 4, Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, 8 p.m. Tickets: $49-$159, matthewknightarena.com.
-- David Greenwald
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