These classics are really meant for jeans
Jean Meilleur grew up listening to the music of Elton John.
Levon, Your Song, Tiny Dancer — the songs of those early years, the nascent part of John’s long career.
When Meilleur steps up to sing Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Burn Down the Mission or Saturday Night’s Alright next weekend, he won’t be mimicking the British singer.
He won’t be wearing funny glasses or dressed in outrageous costumes.
“You’ll be sitting there and you’ll remember the tune but it will be different,” said Meilleur, who has spent the past quarter century touring the country as part of the Jeans ‘N Classics (JNC) series of shows.
Created to combine rock singers with symphony orchestras, JNC will do its Madmen Across the Water — The Music of Elton John with the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra on Friday, Nov. 16, and Saturday, Nov. 17, at Sagebrush Theatre.
The show starts with Meilleur on vocals and guitar, with Donald Paulton on piano, Mitch Taylor on Bass and Paul DeLong on drums.
The orchestra and KSO Chorus join for the second half.
Meilleur — Wisconsin-born, with a stop in Detroit before the family moved across the border to Ontario — said the JNC concept, developed by Peter Brennan, a guitarist and music director, “fit like a glove” for his musical desires.
Brennan, born in Britain and influenced by the music of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Gilbert and Sullivan, “takes rock music that’s been around a long time and does it differently.”
With songs that don’t have much of an orchestral background, he creates it.
“It rejuvenates the music,” Meilleur said. “It takes it to another level.”
Once a genre of music or a particular singer or band is chosen, the group that will be performing works meets with Brennan to personalize the set list, sharing ideas and songs.
The Kamloops show is one of two featuring John’s music. The other doesn’t involve a choir, Meilleur said, and the songs chosen are somewhat different.
The Kamloops show will include: Funeral for a Friend, Love Lies Bleeding, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues, Rocket Man, Daniel, Honky Cat, Your Song, Take Me To The Pilot, Tiny Dancer, Circle of Life, Burn Down the Mission and Saturday Night’s Alright.
It ends with Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.
Meilleur doesn’t have a favourite song; he said it depends on how the night is going and the vibes he’s feeling.
Tiny Dancer is one of his favourites, though, he said.
It’s important the orchestras not be ignored, Meilleur said.
“We try and get songs that we can really feature the orchestra with so it’s not just the band with an occasional violin flurry,” He said.
The challenge with the John show is to ensure certain inflections, breaks — moments in the music that are classic John signature sounds — “have to be there because Elton had them.
“But we don’t clone the artist,” Meilleur said. “We interpret and celebrate the music.
“It’s not often you can go with an orchestra and sing songs that have been around for 35 or 40 years in your own voice.”
The JNC bands aren’t tribute bands, however.
“It’s fun. People come and expect to see us dress up like them.
“We don’t. We play the music the way we hear it — quite soulful and listenable.”
The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. each night.
Tickets are at the Kamloops Live Box Office, 1025 Lorne St., 250-374-5483, or online here.