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Elton John tribute to rock Escondido this weekend

ESCONDIDO -- Die-hard Elton John fans have a real treat in store this weekend.

Not the fans who've only known him since the Lion King's Broadway debut (although those fans would enjoy this, too), but more specifically, the fans who have followed him since he first touched down in America in 1970 and catapulted himself up the charts to fame.

Elton The Early Years is a tribute band that perfectly captures not only that original voice, but the charismatic stage presence, thrilling performance and outrageous costumes of the musical genius at his initial peak.

The band includes Joe Alessandro, who plays Nigel Olsson (Elton John's longtime drummer) in full character on stage.

The star, however, is lifelong musician Kenny Metcalf, who channels Elton so well that you will forget he is not really the icon himself.

Two other familiar band mates round out the show, Bobby Storm as Dee Murray on bass and Dean Cooper as Davey Johnstone, playing lead guitar.

Although Metcalf has come full circle in his own life, there is no "Circle of Life" played on this stage. The songs you will hear are from Elton's first dozen or so albums (approximately 1970-75) which are only but a fourth of his total body of work. His vocals in those early years were much stronger; he could hit high notes and belt out his songs loudly as he pounded along on his piano. Today, critics and fans agree, his voice, tone and style is completely different than those days.

As a result, the songs Elton The Early Years perform are truly a snapshot in time, some are old standards, like "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," "The Bitch Is Back" or "Captain Fantastic;" and some of them you will only know if you actually spun his early LPs over and over on your record player, like "Elderberry Wine," "Midnight Creeper" or "All the Girls Love Alice."

When Alessandro first approached Metcalf with his idea six years ago, Metcalf was busy and committed to making his own music, so he passed. Not long after their conversation, Metcalf's immune system was seized by the little understood "Pemphigus Vulgarus" - an auto-immune disorder for which there is no cure and is generally fatal.

"The disease almost killed me three years ago," Metcalf said. "It took me to death's door, but at the last minute, I was granted a reprieve from God."

The deadly auto-immune disease causes horrible sores and wounds on the surface of the skin. He lost the use of his voice and even drinking water was like swallowing broken glass. Metcalf was in tremendous pain and laid lifeless in the hospital for days. He truly believed he was going to die.

Miraculously, his wounds began to heal - even his doctors said they couldn't take credit for it the turn around.

"I had people all over the world praying for me, even the fan base of the rock band Stryper (because I was their original keyboardist). It really was a miracle I am alive," Metcalf said.

Note: In the late '70s and early '80s, Metcalf toured with the still popular Christian metal rock band, Stryper and has been connected to them and become a successful, award-winning musician in his own right, ever since.

He is not completely out of the woods, but keeps his disease "suppressed" through medication and a great amount of rest in between shows. Based on the performance he gives each night, it would be hard to believe there has ever been anything wrong.

When he was feeling better, Alessandro approached him again and they decided to make it happen. They launched the band this past May at the Hermosa Beach festival with 40,000 people in attendance. They were a hit and have been gaining attention and popularity, ever since.

Just last month, only three months after their launch, Metcalf was approached by the Fab Four, identified as the "Ultimate Beatles Tribute Band." The band was doing a tribute show in Los Angeles on Saturday, Oct. 9 - John Lennon's birthday - and they wanted "Elton" to join in the tribute.

"What an honor!" Metcalf said excitedly.

This incredible one-night only experience will start with the Fab Four performing their regular Beatles tribute, then Elton will hit the stage as the Fab Four convert to a John Lennon tribute band, and it will end with Elton singing a solo tribute to his longtime friend. What an evening this should be.

For more information, including tickets to this evening of performances, visit the Club Nokia website.

Saturday will surely be quite a show, but unfortunately, Los Angeles is not just a hop and a skip away for most San Diegans. However, Escondido is.

The following evening, on Sunday, Oct. 10, Elton the Early Years will take to the stage at Lawrence Welk Resort Theater at 7 p.m.

The band has been at the Welk Theater for the last few Sundays. Because they stay in character the entire two-hour show, it is hard to tell where the character begins and ends. After a recent show, some British tourists even asked, "what part of England are you from?" Clearly a stellar, class act.

To get tickets for the Welk performance, call (888) 802-7469 or click on the website link above. The Welk Resort San Diego Theatre is located at 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive in Escondido, CA 92026

Follow Elton John The Early Years on Facebook.

You can also see live performances on YouTube HERE.

Morgan M. Hurley is the Copy Editor for SDGLN. She can be reached at (877) 727-5446, ext. 710 or via e-mail at morgan@sdgln.com.