As a recovering rock critic, I have probably attended a thousand or so concerts in my rather rocky lifetime. Yet I have never seen one more impressive, moving or meaningful than last night's Intimate Benefit Concert With Elton John for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Playing in a tent for 500 of us on the stunning Beverly Hills estate of Ron Burkle, Elton gave the performance of a lifetime -- ours. Among his unusual opening acts were not only Rob Reiner -- the director of the Foundation, but also the greatest duo act in legal history, David Boies and Theodore B. Olson.
I've seen Elton John, one of the greatest musical artists of our times, perform many of the songs on the night's set list -- from the opening "Sixty Years On" to the closing "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" dozens of times, but I have never seen him in better form or more focused and passionate. Playing without a band or even sometimes accompanist Ray Cooper, Elton used his virtuosity on the piano to get at the heart of some of his finest work. Clearly the cause -- equal marriage rights for all -- connected deeply with him. In fact, some in the press seem to be playing up a few of Elton's comments from the evening to suggest that he was ranting onstage. Take it from this straight married guy in the second row; any rage Sir Elton expressed was entirely righteous. What came through loud and clear was this man's passionate insistence that the fight for equal rights not end with race or gender, but rather that we all keep fighting the good fight until gay people are never viewed as less than anyone else in the eye's of the law -- and eventually in the eyes of the rest of world too.
I was invited to this remarkable night as the guest of my friends Phil and Monica Rosenthal, and truthfully, I was drawn in more by the music than by the cause. But I walked away inspired not just by a great artist, but also by an even greater cause. And in truth, when I got home, I felt a moment of shame. I remembered that during the last Presidential election, my wife and I were discussing Proposition 8 with our two young sons. I tried to explain and in some way justify then-candidate Obama's thinking about gay marriage, when my older son stopped me dead in my tracks. "I don't get it, Dad," he said. "Are gay people equal or not?"
Thank you Sir Elton and the American Foundation for Equal Rights -- as Elton sang so beautifully last night, "how wonderful life is when you're in the world."