YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The traffic was backed up to the foot of the South Avenue Bridge, vehicles single file, all headed toward the Covelli Centre in downtown Youngstown and Elton John Concert Two.
It was 6:40 p.m.
“Look over there,” someone said, pointing left toward the Market Street Bridge, where a mix of red and white lights were lined up, cars stretching as far as the eye could see.
Closer to the arena, people jaywalked through the traffic. Police dressed in yellow, their flashlights beaming red, directed the crowds and vehicles toward the entrance.
Downtown Youngstown was alive on a Saturday night.
Once inside, the Covelli Centre quickly filled up. Eventually there would be hardly a seat left. The demographics: half male, half female, with the average age around 50.
Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti was there, as was Judge John Durkin, and Genie Aubel, President of St. Elizabeth Boardman Health Center, along with her radiologist husband Dr. Steve Aubel. There was realtor John Burgan, and accountant Harold Davis. Todd Hancock and Maureen Collins of Easy Street Production were also among the audience.
The concert was scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m., and at 8:01 Elton John walked onto the stage, dressed in a dark blazer, punctuated with his trademark glitter. On the back of the jacket was printed “Madman Across the Water,” the title of his fourth album.
For those seeing him the first time live, he looked like the Elton John they’d always known. He opened with “Funeral for a Friend” and from there he sat at his piano and cranked out hit after hit: “Bennie and the Jets,” “Candle in the Wind,” and “Levon.”
When John made it to “Philadelphia Freedom,” the entire floor was standing on its feet, many dancing and swaying to the music. But a glance around the private suites that encircle the top of the Covelli Centre showed most of those people sitting and watching. Except for one suite, where everyone was jamming, grooving, and singing along. The one notable person among the wild bunch was Ed Muransky, owner of The Lake Club and Southwoods Surgical Center.
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and “Rocket Man” followed. After virtually every song, John stood up and bowed to each section, making sure not to forget the few hundred people sitting behind the stage.
A couple of times he walked across the platform (actually it was more of a waddle with short, choppy steps) to personally thank everyone as best he could. He appeared to be gracious, and generally appreciative of the crowd’s thundersous applause.
He bantered with the audience a little bit; telling them Youngstown was his “first concert of 2014.”
At about 9:30, during one chat session, his voice seemed to be getting raspy, a point he alluded to further about a half hour later. But when he was singing, John never wavered. The lyrics and music were as the crowd remembered.
Down the home stretch there was “The Bitch is Back,” “Sad Songs,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and finally “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”
Before the encore, he walked along the front of the stage and signed autographs. He ended the evening with “Crocodile Rock,” and at 10:40 p.m., two hours and 39 minutes after he started, the 66-year-old musical icon was finished.
After the concert, a text message was sent to Covelli Centre Executive Director Eric Ryan. “Great job tonight!” it read. “You and your crew made Youngstown proud.”
Saturday night was all right.