The day I opened for Elton John…

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Look who just walked in!

eltonIn my early twenties I was a struggling musician working at M. Steinerts piano store in Boston. I lived in rent-control housing, biked to work, and ate a lot of “ten-for-a-dollar” Ramen noodles. Times were great in so many ways, but I really was the stereotypical ‘starving musician’.

One day, Sir Elton and his band walked into the piano store while on the Boston leg of their “The One” tour.

You mean, THE Elton John just walked in?! I’ve always been a fan of John’s piano-infused pop, so this was a real treat…

steinert-hall-old
Steinert Hall – Circa 1920

Elton and his band really loved the old Steinert piano building – especially the abandoned concert hall 35 feet underground (more on that later).

In the showrooms upstairs was a piano that had just been released – and Elton really wanted to try it out while on tour. So a deal was made to deliver the piano during their upcoming show at Madison Square Garden. A couple “comp” tickets were part of the deal…

Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a chance to see Elton at MSG, so I volunteered for the delivery crew. Even if the story ended here, it would be EPIC, but it gets even better…

April 27th, 1993 – Madison Square Garden, New York City

We arrived about 5 hours before the concert and the sound crew asked to setup the piano so they could hear it through the MSG sound system. These were serious ‘roadies’ – working hard every day to get this monstrous show from one city to another. There was a kindness and a grittiness at the same time. “Hey, anyone play?” one of the engineers asked. You can probably figure out what happened next… I sat down and began playing… “Wait!”, the sound engineer exclaimed – “let me get this on DAT for Elton”. What followed was amazing. I improvised at the piano as the engineer tweaked the sound and blasted my music through the empty halls of MSG. I was playing piano in one of the biggest and baddest stage-settings in the world – and loving it! The sound crew seemed to appreciate the relaxing and introspective quality of the music – I’m guessing it gave them a little relief from the stresses and hardship of being on the road.

eltonAfter my impromptu performance, the sound crew invited us to dinner where we ate with Elton’s band. Great guys, all. In fact, it was hard not to feel like “one of the guys”. After dinner they seated us at the mixing console (best seats in the house!). Talk about “Rock Star” treatment…

Needless to say, I was the last person to play before Elton took the stage. With the way the events took place, I rightly claim “I opened for Elton John”. Yes, a little stretch on the truth, but it really felt like it. More importantly, I walked away with a new confidence and appreciation for the power of music.

From Elton to The Naked Piano

Steinert Hall (2005)
In Steinert Hall – 2006

Ten years later, that little bit of confidence and a lot of passion for piano turned into my first “Naked Piano” albums. My goal was more of a tribute to this timeless instrument  – but also a fulfillment of my desire to provide a musical escape in a hectic world. And… where do you think I recorded those first albums? in the abandoned Steinert concert hall which had so impressed Elton John and his band! 

To show you the special sound quality of that old hall I’d like to offer you one of my favorite tracks called “The Thinker” (recorded in Steinert Hall) FREE – no strings attached.

Download “The Thinker” for FREE here

If you like the track you might also consider checking out “The Naked Piano Transitions“. It’s my latest album and it’s full of great stuff I’d like to think would make Sir Elton proud 🙂

Talk soon,

Gary

 

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