Back in December, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev excitedly tweeted - "attended an Elton John concert, he did an outstanding job, almost three hours of music" - after enjoying Sir Elton John performing in Moscow.
With a career spanning more than four decades and more than 250 million records sold, John, at age 63, is still wowing audiences around the world, presenting on average, a show every three or four days, and often playing for close to three hours a night.
"Some people aren't as driven as I am," John announced in a Vanity Fair interview. "Sitting around doing nothing doesn't appeal to me. I love to tour. The greatest thing in the world is to get onstage."
Elton John made his last concert appearance in Hawaii in January 2010, playing at Honolulu’s Blaisdell Center Arena.
JON WOODHOUSE photo
The legendary British superstar was recently nominated for a Grammy - for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals - for the song "If It Wasn't For Bad," from his "The Union" album with Leon Russell.
The highly acclaimed recording featured John collaborating with one of his primary influences who had long ago faded from the spotlight.
"The sessions were the happiest I've ever been on," John told the Los Angeles Times. "All I wanted for Leon is to have in his later life, the accolades that seem to have been missing for him in the last 35 years. He's one of the greatest American treasures we've ever had in this country."
Who: Elton John and his band
What: Greatest Hits Live concert
When: Feb. 24 and 25
Where: Maui Arts & Cultural Center Yokouchi Pavilion
Tickets: $77, $97, $152 and $252 plus applicable fees; tickets for both shows were still available at press time, from the MACC box office, 242-7469, www.mauiarts.org. Patrons should pick up their tickets in advance to expedite entry.
Parking: Paid parking will be available in the MACC and UH-MC paved parking lots, the UH-MC soccer fields and Keopuolani Park
Gates open: Gates to the events lawn open at 4 p.m. where food, beverages and merchandise will be on sale. Gates to the concert seating area open at 6 p.m. Feb. 24 and 5:30 p.m. Feb. 25.
Showtime: 7 p.m. There will be no opening act. The concert is expected to go for about three hours.
First touring together in the 1970s, the musicians rekindled their friendship last year, after John heard some of Russell's vintage songs on his partner's iPod (while on safari in Africa) and felt inspired to call the 68-year-old artist. With Grammy-winning producer T-Bone Burnett on board, friends assisting the project included Neil Young and Brian Wilson.
"It's not a stretch to say 'The Union' revitalizes Elton John just as much as it does his idol," noted an All Music Guide review. "He hasn't sounded this soulful in years."
Encouraged primarily by his grandmother, Reginald Kenneth Dwight started playing piano at age 3. Both of his parents were avid record collectors, and for amusement they would sometimes make him entertain at parties.
"I hated being forced to play," he later recalled.
Winning a scholarship at 11 to attend London's prestigious Royal Academy of Music, he was blessed with a phenomenal ability to remember music. He could hear a short work by Handel and immediately repeat it.
But any thoughts of a classical career were dashed after his mom came home one day with copies of Elvis Presley's record "Heartbreak Hotel" and Bill Haley's "ABC Boogie." "I really freaked when I heard them and I went on from there," he has reported.
Playing in local pubs at 15, he dropped out of school and in 1964 formed the band, Bluesology (named after jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt's tune "Djangology"). They would sometimes back visiting American soul musicians like The Isley Brothers and Patti LaBelle, and after a gig opening for Little Richard, John realized a new path beckoned. "When I saw Little Richard standing on top of the piano, all lights, sequins and energy, I decided there and then I was going to be a rock 'n' roll piano payer," he said.
He would later adopt his stage name from Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and their popular singer Long John Baldry. Being called Reg, "was kind of like a nightmare when I was young. I couldn't wait to be somebody else."
Elton was introduced to lyricist Bernie Taupin in 1967. Amazingly, their first compositions were conducted by mail.
In late 1969, Elton wrote the music for "Your Song" - in only 10 minutes. It became his first hit. After hearing "Your Song," John Lennon declared it was "the first new thing that's happened since we (the Beatles) happened."
Throughout the 1970s and '80s and into the '90s, John released hit after hit, amassing more than 50 Top 40 hits, and seven consecutive No. 1 U.S. albums.
In recent years he's expanded into Hollywood and Broadway, winning an Oscar for "The Lion King" and composing music for the Tony Award-winning musical "Billy Elliot."
And now he's the proud executive producer of "Gnomeo & Juliet," the new animated movie that's packed with his classic songs and features duets with Lady Gaga on the wonderful new (Beatles-flavored) song "Hello, Hello," and Nelly Furtado on an updating of "Crocodile Rock."
"The Lady Gaga duet came about really by me tying her down and hitting her over the head and saying, will you do this song with me?" John joked at a Hollywood press conference in January. "I was looking for someone to sing it with. She's one of my new best friends, and it worked out brilliantly."
This garden gnome adaptation of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" was praised by the Los Angeles Times as: "Playful, inventive and endearing," and a "genuinely sweet animated film that makes you smile from start to finish."
Voiced by a cast including veterans Maggie Smith and Michael Caine, musical stars pitching in range from Ozzy Osbourne to Dolly Parton, and for a few seconds, we see a caricature of Elton as a flamboyant, animated gnome pounding the piano keys.
"It's important if you're British to take the p*** out of yourself," John reported at the press conference. "Suddenly, there I am - glam gnome, the gnomosexual in the film."
Next up we'll see a documentary about Elton's collaboration with Leon Russell, "Making of The Union," directed by Cameron Crowe. The Oscar-winning director made the great feature film "Almost Famous," which included the memorable "Tiny Dancer" tour bus sing-along. Crowe will also release a doc on Pearl Jam this year.
And there's talk of a biopic on the legendary musician, starring Scottish actor James McAvoy.
"Obviously it's not going to be your normal run-of-the-mill film," he told Britain's Sunday Express. "because my life has been kind of crazy, and I think it's important to do a surrealistic take on my life."
Aside from Russell, John has also been collaborating with a range of other musicians.
He sang on Kanye West's latest album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," on the track "All of the Lights" (along with John Legend, Alicia Keys, Fergie and Rihanna). "His new album is a masterpiece," John told Rolling Stone.
He has teamed with "Glee" star Matthew Morrison on his forthcoming debut album singing a medley of "Mona Lisas and Madhatters" and "Rocket Man."
He's recording a new version of Plan B's tune "Hard Times" with the British rapper and Paloma Faith to raise money for the victims of last year's Pakistan floods.
He recorded an updating of "Your Song" with Irish singer Ronan Keating for his "Duet" album.
And after becoming enamored with hip Australian electro-dance duo Pnau - hearing one of their tunes on the radio while sitting in Sydney traffic - John has co-composed some songs for a forthcoming Pnau album.
With his salad days far behind him, John recognizes that his chart-topping ability has passed. "I don't want to be on VH1 or MTV," he told GQ magazine. "I'm not going to compete with Lady Gaga. I'm at that stage where I don't think I can write pop music any more. I can't sit down and do a proper rock song. It was OK when I was 25 or 26, but not any more. I don't think Elton John will be putting any pop singles out."
In the future we're more likely to hear more roots orientated projects similar to "The Union."
"I've never had such a personal experience making a record, and it's given me verification that what I should do in the future is make records like this," he affirmed in USA Today.
John might not be seeking another chart topper these days, but he has not been holding back from speaking out lately on all manner of subjects.
On record companies - "I think most heads of record companies are idiots," he pronounced in a ShortLlist magazine interview. "They're only in it for themselves, they don't care about artists. They're all about the next fix, the next single. They sicken me."
Reality TV stars - "I really hate them," he exclaimed, "full of mediocre wannabes."
Music videos - "I hate them."
Pop music today - Songwriters today are pretty awful, which is why everything sounds the same," he announced in the U.K. Radio Times. "Contemporary pop isn't very inspiring."
And lip-synching singers - "Only drag queens are allowed to lip-synch," he suggested in The Word magazine.
Making his MACC debut on Feb. 24, Elton last performed in Hawaii in January 2010 at the Blaisdell Center Arena. A Maui News review praised: "The British superstar commanded his Yamaha grand, often launching into epic piano solos, with elaborate arrangements of familiar songs that either ventured into elegant, neoclassical territory or joyous, rocking boogie-woogie.
"Even though he has sung hits like 'Levon,' 'Tiny Dancer' and 'Border Song' countless times, somehow he managed to impart deep emotion and meaning to every word. It was an extraordinary feat, and fans lauded this legendary knight with standing ovation after standing ovation."
One of the 10 best-selling recording artists in history, Elton can draw from more that 50 chart-toppers and a catalog of hundreds of memorable songs in concert. His "Greatest Hits" shows feature a wide range of material from rockers like "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" and "Bitch Is Back" to favorite ballads like "Your Song" and "Sad Songs (Say So Much)." He also has included music from his recent "The Union" with Leon Russell.
"I'm in this incredible position in life where I am doing a job I absolutely love," John concluded in a U.K. Daily Mirror interview. "I'm going to carry on until I drop. There is absolutely no way I'm going to slow down."