Legendary rocker Sir Elton John visited Windsor six years ago for a sold-out evening at the WFCU Centre, but the music man’s legacy doesn’t end with that one memorable concert. This last weekend, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra teamed up with rockers Jeans ‘N Classics for Madman Across The Water, a rousing two-set performance of Sir Elton’s more symphonic tunes.
The symphony Jeans N Classics shows are always popular, usually selling out quickly. Last year’s presentation of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a smash hit, as was 2015’s Pink Floyd show, but judging by the crowd at the Chrysler Theatre on Friday, the allure of a symphonic presentation of Sir Elton’s music was irresistible.
Lead by Associate Conductor Peter Wiebe, the symphony joined the Jeans ‘N Classics band for 18 John selections, ranging from the highly popular Tiny Dancer, Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) and Philadelphia Freedom to more obscure pieces like Have Mercy On The Criminal, Tonight Prelude and the concert’s namesake Madman Across The Water.
Jeans ‘N Classics is a London, Ontario based collective of musicians who faithfully attempt to interpret the music of legendary rock and pop albums and artists, with their own special and signature flair, bringing the rock and pop aspects into settings like the ones here in Windsor with the WSO.
The presentation was unique and felt like a glamourous one-night-only affair that artists usually end up releasing as “symphony” albums. Beginning with the 11-minute epic Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, this was a clear indication, this would not be a typic Sir Elton interpretation.
Vocalist Jean Meilleur gave an honest interpretation of John’s voice, not as a sound-a-like, but was truthful in his tones, inflections and nuances – clearly enough for fans to relax and enjoy the symphonic take on such well-known pieces. The symphony itself was an important part of the arrangement, not being treated solely as background emulations of keyboards. Some of the scores worked well and other not as much, but creating a mix of rock and symphony can’t be an easy thing to do while still trying to stay true to the original songs.
The best pieces in the show utilized the WSO to its fullest and sometimes even allowed horns or strings to take on some key moments as in The Bitch Is Back where the strings rocked the guitar lines. I’ve never seen bows bouncing back and forth so feverishly before. In another cool moment, Stevie Wonder’s harmonica part in I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues was replaced with a trumpet.
The most stunning and beautiful part of the show was in a medley of Tonight Prelude and Madman Across The Water, which provided the perfect mix of symphony and song in unison.
We don’t often get to see maestro Peter Wiebe at the helm, but the Jeans ‘N Classics shows seem to be his baby. He’s the perfect man for the job, with powerful jibs and jabs of the baton at all the right moments and he even came down from the conductor’s pedestal to twinkle the ivories on the piano and singing along to the set closing Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting).
After more than two hours and 18 tracks of Sir Elton’s music, it was easy to leave feeling satisfied. Not only were we listening to the music of a true rock legend, but we had Jeans ‘N Classics and our world-class symphony along for the ride.
The Windsor Symphony has scheduled a second Jeans ‘N Classics show this season when it presents A Night Of Woodstock on March 2, 2018 – nudity and mud not required, but peace and love are good things to bring out that night.
Additionally, Legendary pianist Alain Lefevre joins the WSO to perform on the new Steinway piano in its inaugural concert this coming Saturday at the Capitol Theatre. Lefevre’s performance of Mathieu’s “Rhapsodie Romantique” is part of the Canada 150 Signature Project. This concert also explores the mysteries of the Gordian Knot and the magnificence of Mendelssohn’s Symphony no. 5, “Reformation.”
For more information or tickets, visit www.windsorsymphony.com.
Madman Across The Water Setlist:
Funeral For A Friend
Love Lies Bleeding
Have Mercy On The Criminal
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
Madman Across The Water
Take Me To The Pilot
The Bitch Is Back
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Circle Of Life
Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)