Elton John - vocals, piano; Dee Murray - bass, vocals; Nigel Olsson - drums, vocals
Elton John had made his U.S. debut at a legendary six-night sold-out run at Los Angeles' famed Troubadour club in late August of 1970. After the first night, Robert Hilburn, music critic for the Los Angeles Times, wrote: "Tuesday night at the Troubadour was just the beginning. He's going to be one of rock's biggest and most important stars." Hilburn had no idea just how prophetic his review would be. In 1990, Rolling Stone magazine declared these shows to be among the 20 most important concerts in the history of rock 'n' roll.
This performance, recorded in Cleveland a few months later (after Elton had done a series of shows at the Fillmore East and West, and a number of select dates on both coasts), is essentially the same show that he presented that amazing week at the Troubadour. Featuring only himself on piano and vocals, Nigel Olsson on drums, and the late Dee Murray on bass (guitarist Davey Johnstone would join the band in 1972), Elton John blew away the audience with an energized performance of incredible musicianship, profound songwriting, and staggering showmanship. Not unlike the fiery mid-1950s performances of Jerry Lee Lewis and his band, Elton and company served up great song after great song throughout this set.
Opening with hard rockin' "Bad Side Of The Moon," Elton uses a combination of up-tempo pop gems and thought-provoking ballads to pace the show just right. He plays the most important tracks from his 1970 debut album, Elton John, as well as a number of songs from his second disc, Tumbleweed Connection, which was already out in the U.K. (and storming up the charts) and due out in December, 1970, in the States. Elton had not only made a name for himself due to the huge success of the single, "Your Song," but was also gaining ground (with lyricist Bernie Taupin) for his songwriting for other artists. "Country Comfort," performed here by Elton, had already been cut by Rod Stewart, and "The Border Song" ("Holy Moses"), was about to be recorded by soul diva Aretha Franklin.
The entire show is exceptional, but things take a noticeable upward jump when he lays down a blistering version of "Take Me to the Pilot" followed by "Sixty Years On." He closes the show with a number of cool covers, including the Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman," The Beatles' "Get Back," Sly Stone's "I Wanna Take You Higher," Elvis' arrangement of the Arthur Crudup classic, "My Baby Left Me," and Leon Russell's "Give Peace A Chance" (different than the John Lennon song).
The show ends with a peaceful and well performed version of "Your Song." This is similar to the live album, 11-17-70, the radio concert performed on WABC just a week prior to this show. The bootleg of that NY show had sold over 50,000 copies, forcing Uni Records (John's label at the time) to release it as an official album. When it is all said and done, rock 'n' roll doesn't often get any more exciting and powerful as the music recorded during this show in Cleveland on November 26th, 1970.