While Dorothy found great adventure following the yellow brick road, Ron Camilleri’s discovery of a magical place remains rooted in his singing farewell to that same path.
“You can perform Elton in one of two ways,” says the Mississauga native in an interview with the Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette in Quebec.
“You can go up there, have a party and everyone sings Elton songs, or you can really try to recreate the way Elton did it. All the guys in the band sing, so we’re doing everything. We’re doing all the harmonies. We’re trying to recreate Goodbye Yellow Brick Road the way it was done.”
Trying and succeeding, as will be fully evident on Saturday, July 29th at Del Crary Park when Camilleri, as Elton Rohn, headlines Peterborough Musicfest.
His seven-piece band will perform the best of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road — the groundbreaking 1973 album that produced signature Elton tunes “Candle In The Wind”, “Bennie And The Jets”, “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” and the title track — as well as deliver a generous helping of numerous other hits that rocketed the British pop-rock icon to worldwide fame in the early to mid 1970s.
VIDEO: “Philadelphia Freedom” performed by Elton Rohn
“There’s a few magical moments when you’re trying to become someone else,” Camilleri says.
“The first thing I noticed is how iconic it is. When I play, I look at the audience and they’re always mouthing the words. I get to feel what it must be like for him to experience that kind of love of his music. I walk out in my big sequin outfit and the crowd goes crazy. They’re cheering for the fact that it’s Elton John.”
It doesn’t hurt matters in the least that Camilleri resembles Elton John and, more crucially, has mastered the singing voice that remains instantly recognizable to millions worldwide.
“When you’re playing the songs, you’ve got to kind of envision him and think ‘How would he do it?’ When you do Bennie And The Jets, you feel like Elton John for that very brief moment. It’s a fun thing to go through.”
VIDEO: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” performed by Elton Rohn
As a youth, Camilleri attended dozens of concerts with his father, a former quarterback with the Toronto Argonauts who became an executive with CBS Records Canada. He first saw Elton John perform in 1975. Following graduation from the University of Toronto, Camiller worked in the Canadian music industry, eventually heading up Columbia Records for Sony Music Canada.
As he recalls, a phone call from his brother (also a record executive) changed his life forever.
“He said ‘Let’s make a band … let’s have some fun.’ I was a guitarist. Every time I would sit down and play an Elton John song, the whole place would go crazy. So the band said ‘Why don’t we just do Elton John all the time?’ We started doing that and it just took off from there.
“I don’t want to take away from Elvis performers, but his voice is easier to sing. Elton is difficult to sing. I’ve heard a few Elton John performers who bring the keys down. They’ll stay away from the hard songs. I can still sing like Elton used to, knock on wood. There are a lot of guys that want to put a bow around their neck and go out and pretend they’re Elton. They’re more a tribute to the fun of the artist than trying to be just like him.”
VIDEO: Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” performed by Elton Rohn
As Elton Rohn, Camilleri brings to the stage both the music and the persona of arguably the most popular rock-pop singer/composer of the past 50 years.
Since teaming up with lyricist Bernie Taupin in 1967, Elton John (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight) has sold more than 300 million albums worldwide and charted more than 50 Top 40 hits. At age 70, he still performs around the globe, his concerts always selling out. His September 2012 show in Peterborough at the Memorial Centre created a demand for tickets never seen previously or since.
Elton Rohn’s Musicfest appearance is sponsored by the Peterborough Destination Association.
Peterborough Musicfest is presenting 17 free-admission concerts featuring a total of 22 acts during its 31st season — each staged every Wednesday and Saturday night until August 26th.
Overseen by general manager Tracey Randall and staff, a board of directors, and numerous volunteers, Peterborough Musicfest’s stated mission is to “provide diverse, affordable live music to enrich cultural and economic prosperity in our community.”
For more information on this concert and/or the 2017 season, visit www.ptbomusicfest.ca or phone the Peterborough Musicfest office at 705-755-1111.