THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Rus Anderson’s Powerful Tribute Channels the Intersection of Artistry Where Life & Legend Connect
06th October, 2019 0
Undoubtedly, Elton John is one of the definitive Rock ‘n Roll icons that has danced in that rarified air of meteoric musical success since he first exploded on the scene in the United States with his legendary debut at L.A.’s Troubadour nightclub in 1970.
Currently engaged in his ongoing Farewell Yellow Brick Road world farewell tour, when The Rocket Man Elton John Tribute Show rolls into Saginaw’s Temple Theatre on Saturday, October 12th, musician Rus Anderson will prove that more often than not art does imitate life as much as life imitates art: not only does Anderson portray Elton John’s intensely creative 1970s and ‘80s concerts down to the finest detail; he was also personally selected by Elton to recreate career highlights in virtual reality as the official body double for Elton’s current Farewell Yellow Brick Road world tour - re-creating scenes not only from his Troubadour gig, but also his notorious L.A. Dodgers Stadium Concert from 1975.
Essentially a driving night of Elton’s greatest hits, The Rocket Man Show features spot-on vocals and fierce piano playing as Anderson recreates an early Elton concert with gorgeous and flamboyant costumes actually worn by Elton - including boots, glasses & jumpsuits from 1973, as well as his sparkly tuxedo from 1984. Replete with all of the classic young Elton antics, audiences are in for a night of nostalgia, singing, laughing, and participation.
Hailing from Scotland, Anderson started playing piano at an early age. His father was a session player for some major musicians at the time such as Cat Stevens, Van Morrison and The Bay City Rollers; and as he got older Rus played with original bands as a teenager.
“I left Scotland in 2003, went to college in Florida and basically started performing in piano bars,” he recollects. “I played a lot of Top-40 stuff and many people would come up to me and say I reminded them of a young Elton John. I never put the two together until one day this new thing called YouTube appeared and I saw videos of Elton from the 1970s. Elton was energetic and jumping around, which is what I’ve also always been when performing, so I said: ‘I can do that!’.
After discussions with his wife, the couple thought they should possibly put together some sort of Elton John Tribute Revue. “We started small and before I knew it things starting getting bigger,” he recollects. “No one was doing the young Elton, but I had to add a band as it started getting bigger and by 2009 we were playing around the country. Then one day I got an email from Elton himself telling me he wanted to use me for this project that was going to be his Farewell Tour. That’s when things got crazy.”
Was Elton ever a major influence as Rus was growing up? “He was to a certain extent. We have a similar style and a lot of people have told me we have the same style, because Elton’s left hand is always really busy - not only is the right hand moving, but both hands are doing a lot of walking. This was unique to Elton and The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek also did a lot of that, which is a style more than anything. As I got older I realized I could play Elton’s songs relatively easily and sound somewhat like him. What I enjoyed most about Elton was his physicality and intensity. When Elton approached me about this project he said he really liked the sound and that my youthful intensity was reminiscent of his own style.”
When it came time to shoot the videos for Elton’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Farewell Tour’, what was it like to transform into his double and work with blue screen replicating gigs that happened nearly five decades ago?
“It was a bit disorienting,” admits Rus. “Obviously, I was accustomed to performing in front of audiences, but suddenly without an audience there was no energy to feed off, so that was a little bit strange. I was so damned nervous at the time because all of Elton’s management was sitting there; and here I was pretending to play in front of a huge crowd. Basically, they shot several things for the tour and then invited me back to do more photo shoots and a hologram of Elton.”
Regarding the items of Elton’s actual stage clothing and gear that he’s managed to acquire, Anderson says that some of these gems were auctioned at Sotheby’s Auction house and he also occasionally purchases items on EBay. “It’s nothing I wear in my show, though, because the clothing gets so wet and ends up getting thrown in a pile in the corner of the room. Those are items we keep safe at home, but for the show costuming, my wife will replicate and make his outfits from scratch - identical copies of the stuff he wore in the 1970s,”
When examining the expanse of Elton’s career is there any period or album that stands out as Anderson’s personal favorite?
“For the most part, we don’t recreate one specific concert but take a bunch of those concerts and put them together for our best portrayal of Elton’s artistry,” he explains. “What I like to do is focus on the early stuff, so for the most part we feature material from 1970-74. Those three to four years were a very fertile period for Elton musically.”
Considering his study and background with Elton’s career and talents, what does Anderson feel it is about Elton’s style and sound that distinguishes him the most from all the talent that blossomed in that era?
“That’s an interesting question that I often think about,” he states. “The songs were fantastic and his relationship with lyricist Bernie Taupin was a match made in heaven; and the musicianship was equally strong because Elton has one of the best bands anyone could ever have backing him. But for me what defines the bottom line is that Elton never took himself seriously. He always took the music very seriously, but I feel the audience were on his side from the beginning because they saw he was not taking himself seriously - he came out to entertain and create a spectacle and was one of the few acts at the time that combined theatre, comedy, rock & roll, balladry, and costuming. He had it all and became a very popular character because of that.”
As for the most challenging component involved with challenging Elton, Rus says it comes down to audience satisfaction. “We only get two hours to perform which entails about 20 songs and because of that time constraint I cannot do all the songs people want to hear in that time period,” he laments.
“Inevitably, someone will ask for a particular song that we might have missed and the toughest part is picking the set list to suit the venue. I can’t open up with a heavy duty hard rock song in a little theatre, just as I can’t open with a ballad at an outdoor festival. Because Elton had so many songs it’s just impossible to cover them all, so the hardest part is creating the set list.”
“When we started doing this tribute show we would do maybe 20 shows a year; then it expanded to fifty or sixty. But at the moment, since getting Elton’s blessing and serving as his double, we’re on track to be doing 150 shows a year. It’s getting much busier because of Elton’s connection and endorsement.”
“We’re very excited to be at the Temple Theatre. Performing in a theatre the audiences tend to be with you 100% when the curtain goes up, so we’re able to really make them feel like they’re at an Elton concert.”
The Rocket Man: Elton John Tribute is happening at Saginaw’s Temple Theater on Saturday, October 12th at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $15.00 for Students; $20, $30 & $35 for adults, with premier seating at $45. Tickets can be purchased by going to the templetheatre.com
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)