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Madman Across the Water

Sir Elton John piano-pounded Toyota Center March 28.

Elton John has become the best-case scenario for the future life of a troubled character in one of his songs, albeit it's a song he has been writing since he and collaborator Bernie Taupin decided to forge a songwriting partnership nearly 45years ago.

He's now a seasoned sage, deeper in voice, richer in smile, stately in manner, but still able to pull off a blindingly bright red ­sequined coat.

He's Elton John, that guy on YouTube in the powdered wig, the Donald Duck costume and the sunglasses from Mars, with 40 years of life acting as his wardrobe here in 2013.

Sir Elton John put on a Vegas-polished, hit-studded concert last week, with seven songs from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
Marc Brubaker
Sir Elton John put on a Vegas-polished, hit-studded concert last week, with seven songs from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
OG Ron C (left) says, "Everybody's screaming Robert Earl Davis Jr.," referring to the late DJ Screw's given name.
Marco Torres
OG Ron C (left) says, "Everybody's screaming Robert Earl Davis Jr.," referring to the late DJ Screw's given name.

Last Thursday's sold-out Toyota Center show saw John dialing the time machine back to the days of 1971's Madman Across the Water while also plucking choice cuts from the rest of his catalog. "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" even made a cosmic appearance in the middle of the show, one of seven Goodbye Yellow Brick Road cuts to make the set list.

Those of us weaned on Elton songs on classic-rock radio had to get used to his now deeper register, with most of his higher and breathier passages turned to mellow growls. It forces the songs to hit a little harder, the drums to pound even heavier.

He let the crowd and his band take the high notes, which they (we) all did ably. It's been that way since the late '80s or early '90s, according to folks who saw him long before me.

His piano playing is still flawless, with a lipstick camera aimed at his keys at all times, his hands gliding to and fro. His hands looked like they were insured for billions, give or take a few zeroes.

His live show in 2013 is very Vegas, a product of his headlining The Colosseum at Caesars Palace off and on since 2009. High on drama, high on glitz, it's still very much custom-built for John the storyteller to sing us tales of tiny dancers, rocket men and dead glamour girls.

His Vegas-honed road act is aided by drummer Nigel Olsson and guitarist Davey Johnstone, band members for more than 40 years. On backing vocals, John has Rose Stone, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer in her own right, formerly of her brother's Sly and the Family Stone. Her daughter, Lisa Stone, sings next to her.

He seemed more at ease behind the piano than I had seen him in previous live clips, even saying last week that he still tours because he enjoys it, not because he needs to. His Vegas spots are a hot and expensive ticket, outpacing prices for his touring show, so he's not lying or being disingenuous.

Especially coming from a man who at this point probably has a bank account nearly comparable to Paul McCartney's, anything after 65 for rockers of John's status has to feel like a victory lap, the icing on the gluten-free cake.

John closed Thursday night with a single song, "Your Song," sending fans back into the world refreshed and ready to take on the world, or at least the drive home.
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The Rocks Off 100

Chopstar King
Swishahouse co-founder OG Ron C helped create a sound that changed the world.

Marco Torres

As co-founder of the Swishahouse record label, OG Ron C has been instrumental in the molding of the music and culture that represent the city of Houston. As a producer and DJ, the OG continues to place Houston at the forefront of rap with his "Chopped Not Slopped" series of screwed-down mixtapes and albums.

He frequently serves as host to rappers traveling through Houston on national tours, many times opening those shows with his extensive arsenal of beats and remixes.

Who?

"I'm OG Ron C, also known as OVOG Ron C, as named by my dude Drake," opens Mr. C. "H-Town-born and raised. I am an original Swishahouse DJ and co-founder, known mainly for my F-Action mixtape collection. Currently, I run the Chopstars and we keeping everything purple."

Why do you stay in Houston?

"Houston is where the Screw legacy was born," Ron explains. "If I'm not in Houston representing our culture and my craft, then I'm not doing my job. DJ Screw is the creator of all slowed-down music. God has blessed me to be a DJ that was able to reach millions of people by using the sound he created for us.

"And when I say 'us,' brother, I'm talking about Houston," he continues. "Lil Keke once said, 'The world gon' drip candy and be all screwed up.' In 2013, look at what's happening in the music you hear. Everybody's screaming 'Robert Earl Davis Jr.!' [DJ Screw's birth name]. That's why I chose to stay in Houston."

Music Scene Pet Peeve

"I would like to see more unity among artists in terms of working with each other," Ron says. "It's 2013 and people are loving Houston because we produce some of the best music in the nation right now. So when folks leave town after having fun, we are still here with each other.

"Unity is the key and progression should always be the goal," he continues. "As long as we keep working with each other, we'll be unstoppable."
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