SAN DIEGO -- Remember all the wild outfits, those electric boots and his mohair suit? How about the rattle of all those piano keys on the Bitch is Back? Does hearing Rocket Man take you back to a specific moment in time of your youth? Does Your Song make you think of a special someone?
If so, then you will not want to miss "Elton - The Early Years" this Sunday, May 1st at the Dreamcatcher Theater at Viejas.
According to Kenny Metcalf, who portrays "Elton" like a fine tuned piano, Elton - The Early Years is not just a tribute band - it is a tribute show.
And this is tribute-entertainment at its finest. The stage is transformed into those days of yesteryear when Elton was as at his flashiest and most flamboyant in both style and character; when his acrobatics on stage were second only to his outrageous costumes; the days when he pounded on those keys so hard and so fast, you were sure they would catch on fire; and when his voice was so strong and flexible, he could still reach those high notes so deftly incorporated into his signature songs.
This is not a cover band; Metcalf and his bandmates literally become Elton and his 70's era bandmates - Joe Allessandro as Nigel Olsson, Bobby H.Q. Storm as Dee Murray and Dean Cooper as Davey Johnstone. A fifth member, Mark Servi, is currently a stand-in but will soon join the show as a second guitar - Caleb Quayle - if you will.
As part of the full Elton experience, the guys keep up with the British accent throughout the show and even for the meet-and-greet afterwards. It is also a very technical show, with lights and often including video clips and photo montages on big screens behind the band if the venue permits. Allessandro, endorsed by drum manufacturer Pearl, has a custom chrome drum kit that matches sets that Olsson used during those early years.
Metcalf's custom glasses and outfits are exact replicas of the costumes Elton wore on stage in the 70s at what many still consider to be the high point of his now 40-plus-year career. Metcalf has at least a dozen pairs of "bedazzled" platform shoes, feathered jackets, bell bottom pants and more sequins than a Michael's store.
The latest addition to his costume closet was a sequined Dodgers costume - identical to the one Elton wore to his concert at Dodger Stadium in 1976 (see photo at top). You can see more of his many costumes on their Facebook page.
San Diego Gay & Lesbian News caught up with Metcalf recently over the phone to talk about their upcoming show.
"If you want to do a tribute of someone, you need to do it the right way," he explained. "I want the audience to experience what he was like back then, and I'm trying to make the show as complimentary to how he was, for both those that lived it and those that never got the chance to see him [that way]."
This is not to say Elton isn't still a huge star, or that seeing him in concert today is any less appealing than at any point in his career. What it does mean - and anyone who was a fan of Elton's in his hey-day can attest to this - is that he was just different back then. He was much more of an all around entertainment spectacle in his early years. His Top Ten hits were always over-the-top and his theatrics on stage did them more than justice.
Elton - The Early Years recreates the magic of those days.
"It is the sincerest form of flattery to imitate someone, and I want to do the best job I can to recreate the experience," Metcalf said. "I feel blessed to see the smiles on the people's faces, knowing many of them are reliving their teenage years."
A musician since he was a young boy growing up in La Mirada, Calif. (a small suburb southeast of Los Angeles), Metcalf initially honed his skills on drums. One day in the band room in high school, one of his classmates began pounding out the opening piano struts of Benny and the Jets and girls in the room immediately swarmed around the piano as his friend belted out the song.
"I thought, 'Wow.'" Metcalf remembered. "'I never had an effect on girls like that while playing drums.' So I went right home and taught myself how to play my mother's piano."
He'd always wanted to meet the real Elton John and had a serendipitous encounter with the superstar at Disneyland, just a few years later. The famous piano player was just walking through the crowd with a Navy dixie-cup hat on his head and the brim turned down when Metcalf recognized him. He ran up ahead of the icon and then, walking toward him, thrust out his hand and thanked him for being such an inspiration and for his contributions to music. It is a moment he will never forget.
Since then, Metcalf has spent most of his life involved in his own musical pursuits, and always made a living making music. He and Allessandro decided to put together this group on a whim, so now for the last three years, he has lived and breathed nothing but Elton John and his music.
Now, decades after that chance meeting at the happiest place on earth, he is hoping that one day Elton might get the chance to see his tribute show.
If you go
Viejas Casino is located at 5000 Willows Rd. in Alpine. The show will be in the Dreamcatcher Theater, inside the main casino.
Elton - The Early Years will have two, one-hour concerts, offering a total of 20 different Elton John songs between the two shows.
The first show is at 7:30 pm. and 9:00 pm. Doors open at 7:00 pm.
Admission is FREE.
After the show
Make sure you stick around for the "meet-and-greet" with the group after the show.
Their next gig will be at "Tribute Fest" - Saturday, May 7th - an all day event in Santa Clarita that plays homage to eight different bands. To learn more click HERE.
Elton - The Early Years will also be on KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles next Thursday morning. Tune to your local stations to see their preview of Tribute Fest.