By ANDY GRAY
YOUNGSTOWN - Saturday's concert at the Covelli Centre was Elton John's first of the year.
Elton John's showmanship was on display Saturday on the Covelli Centre stage.
Photo by R. Michael Semple
It also was the biggest crowd ever at the Youngstown arena.
More than 7,000 people filled the venue for the knighted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's encore, a followup to his 2010 appearance.
Many in the crowd saw John's first Covelli show, but some who were shut out in 2010 had better luck this time.
Ken and Bonnie Wellendorf couldn't get tickets for the 2010 show, which sold out in a half hour, and they also missed out on tickets for an Erie, Pa., show.
"Third time was the charm," Ken said, and the couple was in their seats waiting more than an hour before the 8 p.m. start.
Lisa Starcher of Fowler and her friends spent a few minutes waiting in line at the souvenir stand, which was selling everything from T-shirts and hoodies to an Elton John bobblehead (on a yellow brick road base).
But that was nothing compared to what she did to make sure she got tickets. Starcher camped outside the Covelli Centre box office for 13 hours in the cold to score tickets for her family and friends.
"That was for the fun of it," she said. "We did it old school. How do you make memories? By standing in line instead of waiting for tickets online."
Joe and Colleen Sekula of Howland bought tickets to celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary today.
"To watch the legend in front of us, in person, it doesn't get better than that," said Colleen, who has been blasting John's music at home every day to get ready for the concert.
John took the stage right at 8 p.m. Saturday wearing an untucked royal blue shirt with a black suit that had a morning-coat-length jacket. The album cover for John's 1971 release "Madmen Across the Water" was emblazoned on the back of the jacket in rhinestones, but his 1973 double album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" might have been a more appropriate choice.
A reissue of the album is due in March in various configurations, including discs with rarities and other stars (Fall Out Boy, Zac Brown Band, Hunter Hayes) covering its music. John showcased it heavily Saturday, playing seven tracks from it in the first 20 songs, both the classic rock standards ("Bennie and the Jets," "Candle in the Wind," the title track) and the deep cuts ("Grey Seal," "I've Seen That Movie Too").
The 2010 show probably featured a more "greatest hits" set list, but John played plenty of old favorites "Levon," "Tiny Dancer," "Philadelphia Freedom," "Rocket Man," "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," "Someone Saved My Life Tonight."
And this tour had a more visually stunning stage. John performed under a massive chandelier with teardrop-shaped orbs that reflected that reflected whatever color lights were shined on it. And John and his five-piece backing band performed on a round stage with one end folded up at the 45-degree angle. The part of the stage doubled as a screen that showed different images, like flickering flags on "Philadelphia Freedom" and animated graphics featuring milestones from his career during "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."
John proved his reputation as a showman is well deserved. He mugged for the crowd and occasionally stuck out his tongue while never missing a note on the piano. And he basked in the adulation after each song, occasionally cajoling the audience to clap louder or longer (it wasn't necessary).
John let the band sing the high "Ro-ooo-oad" and finessed a few other high notes, but his voice was remarkably strong throughout.
John told the crowd early on, "It's our first show of 2014. It's great to start off here."
7,000+ people couldn't have agreed more.