Elton John And 88 Keys


A few nights ago, we were entertained by Elton John, who has been entertaining his fans for longer than most people have been alive. He wasn’t as good as he used to be…he was better. Where else can you find somebody who makes music on 88 keys and 67-year-old vocal chords for two and a half hours without stopping?

Ah yes, 88 Keys

That’s the name of one of the shows on the Carnival Freedom. It’s a group that doesn’t make either headlines or much money. Seeing and hearing them is free once you’re on the Elton-2ship (you could take a short cruise for what it costs to see Elton John), and yes, it is hard to equate dollar value when there’s no charge.

The performers in 88 Keys were good, of course, because you don’t play for hundreds of people if you aren’t good, even when the audience is captive by a vehicle with not as many options as on land. As the title implies, it’s a piano show accompanied by a lot of singing and dancing, since there are eight participants and only one piano.

What we found especially interesting was the warm-up act. Usually, there aren’t warm-up acts for shows like this on cruise ship, but this one had Seth Gibson. He, too, played the piano and sang and warming up was a plug for his own show, at a piano on another deck. He was very good, perhaps better than the talents in 88 Keys, good enough that we later headed to the piano bar.

While 88 Keys featured the music of Billy Joel, Elton John, Ray Charles, Carole King and much more…Seth Gibson played what his listeners asked for, the way dueling pianists do when they are two. Something else made his show especially compelling. All eight members in 88 Keys showed up, just as part of the audience, and joined him for a song or two. Whether it was staged or impromptu, it was a nice touch.

During his show, Gibson played and sang songs from many artists who are infinitely more famous. And in setting up one piece, this is what he said:

“There are many great piano players…but Elton John is the best piano player in the world.”

Gibson should have been where we were on Saturday night. He’d have been able to say something else…

“I told you so.”

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news and views

Carnival Victory
5 nights
December 8, 2014
Miami (return): Freeport, Little Stirrup Cay, Nassau
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $39

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