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Elton Dan pays tribute to living music legend at the Triple Door

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Elton Dan — Photo courtesy of the artist
Elton Dan — Photo courtesy of the artist

On Friday and Saturday this weekend, the Triple Door theater is hosting a revival of living music legend Elton John's era. Complete with a red baby grand piano, a colorful setup, and authentic outfits, Elton Dan and the Rocket Band will take to the stage and share their love of the British musician's 1970s work.

Elton Dan recently spoke to the SGN from Monterey, California, about how it all began.

Photo courtesy of the artist  

"I have been an Elton John fan since I was probably 15, 16, right there," Dan said. But also, "I grew up mostly listening to, believe it or not, classical music."

That was his family's go-to, and Dan had been playing classical piano for most of his life at that point. Reaching his teens likely made it urgent, however, to branch out a bit. Piano was important, "but it wasn't cool."

But, he said, "when I heard Elton John I was like, 'That's it.' He made piano cool."

Years later, when he was in his early twenties, Dan saw John live for the first time, in the early '90s. He had VIP ticket for one of John's Red Piano concerts at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, and he recalled standing on stage during the final song, just five feet away from a man he considers a "piano virtuoso."

"Since then, I've seen him 22 times," Dan said. "I saw his final two performances at Dodgers Stadium."

John's music has been constant in Dan's musical repertoire, but it was only eight years ago that he committed to his current act.

"Tribute bands started to become [more of] a thing about ten years ago, when a lot of those '70s rock n' rollers were either passing or retiring," Dan said.

He recounted how someone approached him with a proposal: "Dan, you've always loved Elton John and his music, and you play it well. Why don't you do a tribute?"

At the time, Dan says, he thought it was "cheesy."

"I thought, you know, 'The artist is still alive. Would it be disrespectful?'" he said.

"And they kept on me, so about two years later — that was about eight years ago — I agreed to do one show. And it was so incredible. I saw the people smiling and singing along, and I [said], 'You know, I think we can keep that experience and that beautiful music alive.' A lot of people don't get to see Elton. He's not touring anymore now."

Photo courtesy of the artist  

Love and caring
In Dan's judgment, the crowds that show up are not only from all walks of life, but they tend to be drawn together by John and the themes of love of his most prolific songwriter, Bernie Taupin.

"Everybody's just been wonderful," Dan said. "They're just a really loving group of people."

As for age groups, "It's definitely a mix, and I think that's one of the coolest things about Elton John, right?" Dan said. "He's got fifty years of music, and it spans everything from my kids to my parents ... The Lion King music all the way back to that '70s rock n' roll stuff."

Dan also pointed out how often John does collaborations with young, up-and-coming artists, which not only boosts their careers but brings younger generations to his work.

On that note, Dan and his band's work hasn't gone unnoticed by those in John's close orbit.

"I get this phone call ... and they say, 'Hey, we're looking for Elton Dan,'" Dan said. "And I was ready to hang up, thinking it was some kind of whatever. And they go, 'David Furnish is in Kansas City, and he would like to meet you.'"

Furnish is Elton John's husband, so this was a big deal. So Dan showed up in his full Elton John outfit, and though he isn't sure whether John ever got to see the video of Dan's birthday concert (which had happened two days prior), Furnish certainly did.

Of course, John didn't accomplish what he did alone, and Dan didn't either. There are complete bios on the band's website, but the other members are all lifelong musicians.

Dean Christopher and C.J. Dothage play guitar, Wes Faulconer and Bill Graham are on drums, Paul Greenlease is on bass. Prolific country vocalist Karen Backes-Dothage performs as another lead singer, and Chelsy Larson of jazz/pop fusion band Clowder sings harmony.

"You know, it's a team, right? No matter what," Dan said. "I've been playing music almost my entire life. I've played on cruise ships, played overseas, played in original bands — done about everything in between [under] the sun. And bands are like herding cats, and there's always drama."

But that hasn't been the case with this particular group, who Dan said are a delight to work with.

"I can honestly say, this group of musicians ... we love each other, we care about each other, and we support each other, and we need each other to make the music right. I finally have that. It's been the golden goose I've been chasing, and it happens to be with my favorite music, Elton John.

"It's been honestly the most enjoyable musical experience I've ever had in my life."

Dan plans to share that enthusiasm and appreciation with audiences this weekend, and during the rest of his 20-day, 17-show tour. In particular, Seattle fans of Elton John can expect some of the artist's more "B-side" content and "deeper cuts," as Dan put it.

"Music is sharing, and I believe that with everything I stand for," Dan said. "A lot of [John's] songs are really about love and caring. Now, he has some really abstract and some really cool blues stuff, but many of his songs are just about love. And he says that at his concerts. He really is that kind of person."

You can buy tickets to either of two April 22 shows at the Triple Door and find out more about Elton Dan and the Rocket Band at https://www.eltondan.com/