In a remarkable display of generosity and professionalism, Elton John performed on his own for more than an hour Tuesday night (March 19) when illness kept singer-songwriter Ryan Adams off the stage at a taping of CMT Crossroads at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.
“Everybody who witnessed it said, ‘You know what? It’s a reminder not only of the genius and the brilliance of Elton, but also of the notion that, wow, what a concept, respect for the audience,’” said CMT chief Brian Philips. “It’s just the thought of Elton John saying, well, if there are people coming to see this, then I’ll certainly play. The guy sits down and he’s perfect and people are enthralled.”
John and Adams now plan to reunite April 2 in Nashville to tape the show, which features two artists swapping songs and discussing their common grounding in country music. Earlier CMT Crossroads have matched Lucinda Williams with Elvis Costello and Kid Rock with Hank Williams Jr. An upcoming show (April 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT) pairs ZZ Top and Brooks & Dunn.
“We’re very excited that when Ryan’s better, they’re coming to Nashville,” Philips said. “Somehow we’ve been fortunate enough, by the time this is done, to have had two great nights with Elton John.”
CMT staffers learned Tuesday afternoon that Adams would not be able to perform. He came to the midtown venue and tried to sing during rehearsal but could not.
“He came in in the morning,” Philips explained. “By mid-afternoon it was clear that he wasn’t going to get his voice back, and that was really the deciding factor. The doctor said absolutely not. He’s not going on.”
John did a number of his own hits including “Your Song,” “Tiny Dancer” and “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.” Then he called out Adams’ band to perform Adams’ “La Cienega Just Smiled” and “Oh My Sweet Carolina.” Adams’ band also accompanied John on the Jim Reeves country classic “He’ll Have to Go” — a song he sang in English pubs in his early years — and on his own “Rocket Man.”
“We got just a little taste, in the Elton arrangements last night, of how this CMT Crossroads is going to go, especially when Ryan’s band joined him,” Philips said. “To hear ‘Rocket Man’ with more of a country inflection … and to hear the great Jim Reeves song that Elton’s done throughout his career, we got a great preview of what’s to come.”
CMT staffers offered New York audience members a chance to sign up for the rescheduled taping. Sixty people put their names on the list for the show, which will not be open to the public. The CMT Crossroads featuring Adams and John is tentatively scheduled to air on CMT in late May.