"I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia this morning," Elton John said from behind his patent black Yamaha Grand piano. "My voice is shot but I didn't want to miss this."

Golly. You'd have forgiven him if he called it the blues. But he didn't. Instead he expressed gratitude to a near sold-out Mt Smart, an apology if some of the high notes weren't quite there this evening and swung into I Guess That's Why they Call it the Blues.

Perhaps the confession energised him. At the end he jumped up, pointed to the sky and with a big grin exclaimed, "Yeah!".

Elton John gets emotional as he has to leave the stage.
Elton John gets emotional as he has to leave the stage.

Ever the consummate showman, he was determined that not only must the show go on but that he'd have a damn good time to boot. Even if he did sometimes look poorly behind his oversized crimson shades.

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The night had taken off with Bennie and the Jets (video above), the loose stomp of the song's instantly recognisable piano stabs sending spirits - and cheers - soaring. It also gave John the first of many excuses to really cut loose on his grand piano. As the band kept the swaggering groove going John set his piano alight, delivering not one but two rollicking solos that let you know he was here to play tonight.

You could tell when he really got into it because he'd jump up on to his feet and point to the crowd.

An extended run through signature song Rocket Man saw him leap up, arms triumphant to rapturous applause. It was well deserved. Especially after the song took off in the middle with some ground shaking synth subs signalling blast off.

Ironically it was an emotional yet rocking run through of Someone Saved My Life Tonight that almost finished him off, leaving him slumped on his stool. Medics came out, the screens went off, the crowd cried, "We love you Elton!" and minutes passed. Then ... All good! Once again, the show must go on.

Elton John in concert at Mt Smart. Photo / David Watson
Elton John in concert at Mt Smart. Photo / David Watson

Even stricken with illness John's voice remained as powerful as his piano playing and carried just as much emotional punch. Until he spoke.

"I don't know if I can go much longer," he wheezed. "I haven't got much left."

Elton John in concert at Mt Smart. Photo / David Watson
Elton John in concert at Mt Smart. Photo / David Watson

He soldiered on through Candle in the Wind, his beloved tribute to Marilyn Monroe and Diana, Princess of Wales taking on added prescience; tonight would John's candle burn out before his legend ever did? At the end of the song he left the stage.

The band returned to the thunder and lightening of John's prog-rock opus Funeral for a Friend. Was it now literal? There was no sign of John. The intro extended. And extended a bit more. Then, there he was, in a new suit and with his piano rotating around the stage while his band thundered behind his thumping grandiose piano and guitarist Davey Johnstone fried his fretboard.

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It was epic. It was thunderous. It was, ultimately, too much.

"Okay," he squeaked as way of introducing the next song. He hit a few notes. He stopped.

Elton John gets emotional as he has to leave the stage.
Elton John gets emotional as he has to leave the stage.

"I've completely lost my voice," he rasped. His throat sounded like it was being ripped with glass. "I've got to go home. I'm so sorry."

Then Sir Elton John stood up from his piano and started sobbing and the lights went out.