I Dreamt I Was Elton John… And I Was Outtasight

Elton John Fantasy Set List
Rolling Stone

Fantasy Set List: Elton John

At a corporate retreat this week we ended up at a dueling piano bar. My nostalgic tendencies being what they are, I couldn’t help remembering the me in my 20s who felt most comfortable, of anyplace in the world, behind a piano.

I offered the dudes on the keys a dollar to deepsix some granola request and play Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot” instead. Being consummate entrepreneurs, they invited anyone with $2 to trump that classic.

No takers. So, ha-ha-ha-ha.

As they leaned in to the opening, I let slip to a colleague that, hey, I used to do a thing like that. She offered up $20 to get me on the bench, but I talked her out of it. Why? Well, when you do a thing well and then take about 10 years off, is it going to be a pleasure to discover how rusty you are, or more a moment of panic?

Ah, but in my dreams I can still rock it.

Funnily enough, the other night I had a particularly vivid dream that I was, I fact, the actual, genuine Elton Hercules John, circa 1978, and damn if I wasn’t excited to just slay my audience with a killer set.

Elton John 1980 Donald Duck
Rolling Stone

Captain Fantastic Crafts a Killer Set

This type of nocturnal body snatching has happened to me a few times. Most notably in dreams where I was Bruce Springsteen and was realizing, on stage, that, oh yeah, I can’t play guitar and have only a passing familiarity with the words; and another time, when I was Tom Waits, and I was about to milk the three albums I actually owned for all they were worth.

It’s an odd bout of unconscious projecting, and as far as I know unprompted by an evening scotch or rich dessert or any daytime association with my iPod habits.

In the case of Sir Elton, I believe I was actually me, around 19, only I had actually written his entire catalog and had it at my disposal for a high school talent show. And was just primed to slay with some of the earlier cuts.

These were the ground rules for my performance:

  • Using an actual acoustic grand piano — none of the plug-in, keyboard shit that dominated his 1980s
  • Sticking to the early 1970s catalog
  • Flaunting his wild vocal range of the 1970s, and none of the down-a-few-steps renditions of the 1990s
  • Sporting an outrageous costume because, well, Elton Hercules John

These thoughts, these plans and this feeling of excitement were distinct in my dream. I won’t fill space here analyzing it too much. For whatever reason, the thoughts and plans and excitement were the farthest I got on the other side of the pillow. I woke up having never taken the stage, Reginald Kenneth Dwight again, with only the “huh” wonderment of the goofy drama my subconscious can cook up.

It was just a fun dream.

But my selections would have gone something like this….

Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding

Helluva good opener. Operatic and ghoulishly over the top with its wind and tolling bells and fat, analog synth in the dirgelike beginning, then shifting into straight-rocking drive.

Madman Across the Water

Slowing down a few ticks on the metronome, but hanging on to the power.

Sixty Years On

Mellowing a bit more, but with all the kooky, hippy sensibilities going for us. “Magdalena plays the organ, plays it just for you….”

Border Song

Bringing it back up again. With a grudging nod on this and the next to the Greatest Hits, Volume 1.

Honky Cat

Full-fledged, strutting-across-the-keyboard fun.

This Song Has No Title

Up-tempo number from Goodbye, Yellowbrick Road keeps us in the same era as “Honky Cat”

Come Down in Time

Bringing it back down. Arpeggio magic, like “Sixty Years On.” Anybody else prefer the Sting cover?

Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters

Wrap-up before the encore. This one has gotten stuck in my head this week and somehow shifts into “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from the Lion King. Inevitable, probably.

Encore 1: Tonight

Epic, orchestral, dark-hued, desperate. Love this. Come back out big, right? (And bring the whole orchestra with you.)

Encore 2: Take Me to the Pilot

A good rocker. “Nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah na-na nah-nah-nah.”

Encore 3: Goodbye, Yellowbrick Road

The closer. Any objections? Thought not.



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