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Dave Roepke, Published May 03 2009

Elton John and Billy Joel: A spectacle in spectacles

Seeing Elton John is part of a normal day for Rhonda Wood. A mural depicting him covers one of the walls of her bathroom.

“I have the ‘Elton’ john,” Wood said.

They might not have toilet-side tributes to John, or his touring partner Billy Joel, but passionate fans were not hard to find during the iconic piano men’s concert Saturday at the Fargodome.

As can be done at any concert worth a dome booking, fanatics could be identified by tour T-shirts. This is particularly easy for a John and Joel pairing, a recurring show that first toured in the mid-1990s.

The shirts were the tip-off with Wood and fellow John fanatic Cali Harrier of Detroit Lakes, Minn. They were attending their third John and Joel concert, though they’ve seen John solo multiple times. It was Wood’s 11th time seeing John perform live.

Sir Elton is their clear favorite, but they don’t mind his buddy Billy.

“You just can’t beat it – two superstars,” Harrier said.

There was an easier way to spot John fans than eyeballing shirts. The most boisterous wore wildly oversized glasses, a winking reference to the singer’s preference for over-the-top eyewear.

When a group of seven women from Minnesota were planning a night out around the concert three months ago, the shades were the top priority.

“You can’t go to an Elton John show without glasses,” said Terri Anderson of Rothsay, Minn.

The group said they’d been posing for quite a few pictures, and as they stood in line, a man walking by confirmed that seeing seven women in spectacular specs is a lasting spectacle: “Hey, I remember you girls from the bar!”

Joel had his fans, too. Wood and Harrier were there with a group of 16, among them Theresa and Lief Rogstad. “I’m a Joel,” Theresa Rogstad said.

Lief Rogstad said they’d never seen either pianist play but were psyched for a nightlong sing-along.

“We’ll know all the words,” he said.

Nine-year-old Madi Bushman of Wausau, Wis., said she was waiting for Joel to play “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Why?

“That’s the only song I know,” she admitted.

Madi and her older sister, Taylor, were at the dome for a history lesson from their parents, who are giving them a crash course in the big shots of rock from the 1970s while the syllabus is still kicking.

Their father, Derrick Bushman, said Joel and John definitely fit the bill. AC/DC, the Australian band that played the dome in January, is on tap for later this summer. “We’re going to get them hooked on our music,” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535