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Preview: Elton John

Noah Bonaparte Pais says the bitch is back … at Smoothie King Center March 21

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Who knows what kind of rhymes might have befallen the songs of Sir Elton John if he hadn't been paired up with lyricist Bernie Taupin in 1967? (Here's a clue: John's first band was called Bluesology. "Hold me closer, Tony Danza" indeed.) Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy have had their tandem missteps ("Jamaica Jerk-Off"), but the nearly 50-year partnership remains an inimitable form of high-stakes symbiosis: John, the Lennon-meets-Liberace ultimate showman/Million Dollar Piano man, and Taupin, the ghostwriter of some of the weirdest narratives ever to find their way into Top 40 residence. John's loyalty and dedication is well-documented — guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson still accompany him on tour — but his surrendering of the words to his hits has no real analog in popular music; it's more akin to film or stage, making Taupin the playwright and John both director and star. This production, designed by The Wall architect Mark Fisher (who died in June 2013), is both a birthday bash for John, who turns 67 this week, and a $2 million interpretation of The Diving Board, his 31st release and a solo reawakening after 2010's Leon Russell fete The Union. Produced by T Bone Burnett and backed by Raphael Saadiq on bass, the album caters to John's adult-contemporary base while returning to his desolate early gospels and missed Tumbleweed Connections, putting impassioned readings and ivory rapids to Taupin's poems about Oscar Wilde and Blind Tom, with just enough dirty-water Mexican Vacations to jump-start a pulse. It's how the West was won over. Tickets $27.45-$162.45. — Noah Bonaparte Pais

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