The gravitational pull of the second Saturday headliner—this year Elton John, preceded in 2014 by Bruce Springstein—forces sacrifice. #JazzFest’s true beauty normally lies in soaking up its diversity through osmosis. A trumpet beckons you to the Blues Tent, the smell of etouffee leads to vendor row, a second line marches you back to the Heritage Stage. Forced campouts for a 2.5hr megaset prevents much of that, to say nothing of the logistical nightmares for attendees of varying abilities or those needing medical attention. //
Even those lucky enough to be within sightlines of the stage face new limits. Unwritten rules dictate a no re-entry policy, so beer runs or chairs marking personal space be damned. Forget dinner with a 4:50p start, don’t think about bathroom access. //
But $70 wouldn’t get you in the door for most #EltonJohn performances, let alone one with a choose-your-own-opener list spanning Big Freedia, Jerry Lee Lewis and Charles Lloyd. And despite the obvious signs of aging—like a tendency to leave the high register for classic recordings—John remains captivating for a diverse legion of fans. Jazz Fest sealed a milestone attendance figure on announcement day. (Estimates currently push 60,000.) //
If John’s brilliance somehow eluded before, watching among the masses hammers home the point. He brings an endless stream of one-worders—“Benny,” “Rocket,” “Levon,” “Candle”—that can all happen within the first hour without damaging an overall set. (Absurdly, “Alice” or “Yellow Brick Road” function as B- and C-sides.) Sing-a-long choruses enrapture pop fans, extended solos stimulate the music school crowd. John creates both universal and personal moments for all, sometimes simultaneously (maybe a majority of the time). Even if—like most—you could barely perceive his “Mr. Fantastic” sequined jacket, you knew it fit.
(Via @nathanmattise on Instagram.)