Music Review

Elton John pounds out the hits at TD Garden

Elton John also played songs from his new album, “The Diving Board.”
Elton John also played songs from his new album, “The Diving Board.”

Elton John pounded out just one chord on the piano, sudden and thunderous, and that’s all he needed to play. It was an iconic riff. Everyone knew what was coming: the glorious bombast of “Bennie and the Jets,” with that soaring chorus intact courtesy of the audience singalong.

It came early in the evening on Tuesday at TD Garden, where John performed to a sold-out crowd of more than 10,000. And it was a reminder that John, at 66, is in a hallowed league of rock musicians whose catalog runs deep with hits (and misses) that span multiple decades.

John has them in spades, and he reeled them off in assured — and surprisingly unhurried — renditions. “Levon,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Rocket Man,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” and “Philadelphia Freedom” all unfurled like the epic jams they are. John’s voice, a bit rougher around the edges, carried them with conviction.


With the show creeping toward 2 hours and 45 minutes, John also had time to shoehorn in a handful of songs from his acclaimed new album, “The Diving Board.” That record pared John down to mostly just piano, drums, and bass, but his latest tour is appropriately full scale, with his longstanding five-piece band, four backup singers — including the great Táta Vega, who was featured in the recent film “20 Feet From Stardom” — and the cellists from 2Cellos.

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Perhaps because this year marks its 40th anniversary, John leaned heavily on “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” playing its title track, “Candle in the Wind,” “Bennie and the Jets,” the opening “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” and deeper cuts such as “Grey Seal” and “All the Girls Love Alice,” among others.

Maybe it left out your personal favorite — mercifully, there were no Disney songs — but it was still an inspired set list that suggested John is revisiting less-worn pockets of his discography. He also gave the show a personal touch with shout-outs to his Boston friends, including Live Nation’s Don Law, who promoted John’s first show here, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, whom John called “one of my best friends in the world.”

John closed the evening with a pair of songs that captured his mass appeal succinctly. The heart-on-sleeve sentiments of “Your Song” had cellphones illuminated and aloft in the crowd, just before “Crocodile Rock” went into sock-hop overdrive. The man can break your heart and make you dance within minutes.

James Reed can be reached at