Led by Gerald Brann of Bath, the band Yellow Brick Road: A Tribute to Elton John performs at the city’s Waterfront Park Sunday, Sept. 1. Contributed

BATH — Perhaps one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, elements to performing as Elton John is rushing to and from backstage to hurriedly don an array of elaborate costumes during a single show.

Gerald Brann has toured the country as Elton John for 18 years. Contributed

Gerald Brann – who tends to pack in three or four costume changes per show when not playing a whitem baby grand piano – has played the Rocket Man since 2001 as leader of the band Yellow Brick Road: A Tribute to Elton John. A seven-year resident of Bath, he has performed locally only once: a small show at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

But Brann will be in the City of Ships on Sunday, Sept. 1, to perform at Waterfront Park from 4:30-7:30 p.m. The event, which is $30 a ticket, and free for those 12 and younger, is a fundraiser for Main Street Bath.

“We have been gone and primarily out of state for a very long time,” Brann said in an interview Aug. 22. “So to have a return show to Bath is pretty cool.”

More information and concert dates are available at tributetoeltonjohn.com, and tickets can be purchased at visitbath.com.

The group presents the songs not as they are heard on John’s studio albums, but rather with the improvisational flavor of his live appearances, Brann said. The members aim to capture the energy and synergy John shared with bass guitarist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson.

The other members of Brann’s band – guitarists Rich D’Aigle and Mike Tobias, bassist Mark Kavanaugh and drummer Kevin Ostrowski – all live in Maine, too. They all have day jobs; one has a doctorate in psychology, another is a meteorologist, and Brann is an electrical engineer.

The group performs about 30-35 gigs annually across the country, primarily on the East Coast, and as far north as Canada and south as the Dominican Republic. They are aiming to do a small tour of the United Kingdom next year – particularly timely since the English-born John will soon retire from touring.

Brann met John briefly once, in a receiving line at one of the latter’s Massachusetts shows in the early 2000s.

“It was kind of like meeting royalty, which I suppose he is; he is knighted,” Brann said.

Although he hasn’t received feedback from Sir Elton on his own renditions of the “Daniel” singer’s performances, Brann’s band indirectly connected with him when performing a concert while backed by a full symphony orchestra.

“I had to get permission to use Elton’s orchestra scores,” Brann recalled. The year-long process was “quite the ordeal,” but permission was ultimately granted simply by sending John a video of the show.

Brann, a 51-year-old with a wife and guitar-playing daughter, played his first show at the age of 14. While his friends wanted to follow in the footsteps of guitar acts like Eddie Van Halen and Kiss, Brann found himself drawn to the piano – and hence, Elton John. He was at that time enthralled by John’s 1973 “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album.

“Every song on it; I just loved it,” Brann said. “I hadn’t heard anything like it. I loved his voice, and then I started exploring a lot of the albums from that same time period,” particularly the first half of the ’70s.

Channeling those songs, and the man himself, has “been an adventure, but I enjoy it very much,” he said.

Brann’s show is a snapshot of John in the mid-1980s, incorporating songs up to that point such as “I’m Still Standing,” and all the costume changes known at his shows through that point.

“That’s the music I love the most, but it also has a lot to do with my ability to pull off the Elton John appearance, and I think that that era is the one I can best emulate,” Brann explained. “I think that I have about the same build as Elton of the ’80s, although I do flash a few 1970s costumes.”

There’s the one with the leather jacket and white feathers on the shoulders. Another familiar garb Brann dons is the half-black, half-white tuxedo from the 1984 “Breaking Hearts” tour.

But the one that draws particular enthusiasm from the audience is the Donald Duck costume from John’s 1980 Central Park performance. “That’s a staple.”

Wearing that “is like wrapping yourself up in pillows, or a snowmobile suit that’s 8 inches thick,” he said. Not the most breathable thing to wear while jumping around under hot stage lights.

During one show in Kentucky, “I did this medley of tunes, and I had to change into the duck costume from a tuxedo with tails, and I had about 30 seconds,” he recalled.

Backstage, there was a clothing rack, two chairs, and three people to help him transform. “I’m just ripping things off, and grabbing stuff,” he said. Once he had torn back on stage, Brann discovered he’d left his shoes behind.

Thankfully, he had Donald Duck’s “big, floppy feet” to hide his socks.

“I ran out on stage and slid about four or five feet to a stop,” Brann said with a laugh.

And he was, like John himself all these years, still standing.


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