A MOMENT IN THE LIFE OF…Joel Coombes, Elton John tribute act

I’ve been a musician for 20 years and for the last ten of those it’s been full time as Elton.

I do around 100 shows a year, which is probably about the same as Elton himself. I live in the north east so it’s a lot of travelling and I’ve gone overseas with the show too. I’ve played the Middle East and across Europe. Playing Ally Pally a few years ago was definitely a recent standout.

My day might start with dropping the kids off at school, then travelling to the venue. We’ll sound check as a band and do some rehearsals. About an hour before the show starts I’ll start applying make-up, glasses, wig and getting into one of the costumes. I typically do three or four costume changes during a show. He’s got amazing wardrobe options, with the fashions spanning very specific eras in his career, so it’s great to show them off.

It’s only really when I’m in costume that I fully feel ready to perform and the Elton mannerisms start kicking in. Before then, and after then, I’m me. I can’t do Elton properly without the get-up, even in soundchecks. And if friends pop over to my house and ask me to play a few songs, I can’t do it.

We usually do 15 songs in a set. There’s so much to choose from and everyone has a favourite. We just have to get the balance right between the ballads and the rockers. I typically start the show with something punchy, like Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting or I’m Still Standing. He’s got so many great songs though, so no one goes home disappointed.

I’m a massive Elton fan, but fell into the tribute work by accident. I was looking for a job back home having worked on cruise ships as a musician. It’s only when a friend found out that I could play the piano that the idea came up. It’s snow-balled from there.

There’s definitely a spike in bookings when Elton is in the news. The film, which I thought was great fun, has really had an impact, for example.

After the show it’s not all rock ‘n’ roll and certainly nothing like Elton during the 70s! It’s usually a cup of tea or travelling home or to the next show. The real joy is the performance itself. As a musician it’s just great to be on stage, entertaining people and seeing them singing along and enjoying themselves.

Joel will appearing at Alexandra Palace’s Fireworks Festival on Saturday 2 November 2019. For tickets visit https://www.fireworks.london/ and for more information about his act visit https://www.tribute2elton.com/