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- Posted on Jan 28th 2013 11:15AM by Chris Epting
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images for Yamaha
It's called Yamaha's Disklavier TV and RemoteLive Technology, and in a nutshell, it allowed for the sending of all of Elton John's keystrokes to remote pianos stationed across the globe in real time.
Chris Gero, who founded Yamaha's in-house label Yamaha Entertainment Group and has headed up Artist Relations for Yamaha for almost 2 decades, produced the concert. He told Spinner that "this technology represents an all-new level of interactivity when it comes to performance. It totally changes the game. To be able to transmit like this is just the beginning and when Elton heard about the technology he stepped right up and said he wanted to be the guy to deliver it for the first time. Doing this in partnership with Elton John, we feel, is the perfect way to celebrate Yamaha's 125th anniversary."
The Yamaha Entertainment Group is releasing its first full-length album, by the UK's Leogun this year. They were also on the bill and before the show, guitarist and vocalist Tommy Smith explained to Spinner that he would be nervous before the performance given how high profile an affair it was going to be. No matter, he led his rough and rocking trio through a tumultuous two-song set that more than stood out among the many other acts.
That is saying something, considering that the four-hour concert featured everyone from Amy Grant to Chaka Khan to Earth, Wind and Fire, to Michael McDonald Sarah McLachlan, Toto and more (even the USC marching band). Host Sinbad (with a little help from legendary songwriter David Foster) kept the evening moving along but as strong as all of the openers were, it was clear that everybody was waiting for Sir Elton.
The guest of honor took the stage just after 11:00 PM and graciously welcomed all invited guests. He was also quick to a knowledge magnificent 75-piece orchestra (as did every performer this evening). At times during the show, the orchestra was conducted by famed film composer and former Elton John band member James Newton Howard.
Though the audience wasn't able to see what the other pianos were doing around the world, stationed in various cities for listening parties, presumably they were replicating John's stellar performance.
The five-song set began with "Your Song," went into a soaring version of "Tiny Dancer," then "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word," "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," and then finally, an extended, haunting version of "Rocket Man."
For all of the remarkable technology being unveiled on this evening it was still hard to not be just as wowed by the musical prowess of John. From barrel-house blues to intricate balladry, his forceful playing has never sounded better. Dressed in a striking sequin-covered navy blue suit, the simplicity of Elton John at the piano (at times supported by the marvelous orchestra) was an elegant, satisfying reward for all of the proud Yamaha employees in attendance. That said, the technology is remarkable when you consider what was happening around the world as Elton pounded the keys and it was fitting that such a still-relevant artist would be the first man to usher in something this intriguing. Once they figure out how to beam an artist hologram around the world, it startles the mind to think what might be possible.