Almost Elton

Sir Elton John is more than a fabulous musician, more than an iconic singer — he’s also the ultimate performer. His place in music history is cemented with the memory of his unbelievable stage presence in the 1970s at the height of his career. Of course he had amazing hit songs to back it up, but his wild antics and crazy costumes took him to another level as a live act.

While John still tours and recently recorded a new album, his stage show is not quite as supersonic as the days of old. However, there is one man who still performs his hits with an over-the-top energy — Rus Anderson.

Anderson, originally from Scotland, not only looks and sounds like John, he becomes John on stage in The Rocket Man Show, performing John’s iconic 1970 sets with nearly identical moves and costumes. In fact, his performance is so close to the original, Elton John himself handpicked Anderson to play him in an extensive promotional video.

In 2017, Anderson got the call of a lifetime when John’s team reached out to ask if he would be John’s body double to portray young Elton in his promotional materials for his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, which continues through next year.

“Because of our attention to detail, I was picked to be Elton’s body double for all of the videos and promotional stuff used for his current tour,” Anderson said. “I don’t know how they found me but his office located me online and called me one day and said, ‘Hey would you bring all your costumes out to Hollywood and we’re going to do a bunch of promo stuff for his tour?’ And that’s what we did. I got to meet Elton and shoot video with him and you see all of that on the big screens when you go to his tour. It’s nuts!”

As awestruck as Anderson was to meet the legend he portrays on stage, John was just as interested in meeting his “double.”

“He was super nice to me and he was genuinely interested in the concept of a tribute band,” Anderson said. “He and his management were so curious about the show. They were obviously aware that there were impersonators, but I don’t think they really realized how deep we went with it and to the extent we took it, reenacting his early concerts. They were genuinely fascinated by it.

“He was so kind to me. I got to spend a whole day shooting photos with him. I met his kids and his husband David Furnish, who is also his manager. I got to go to his concerts, his Million Dollar Piano show in Vegas and his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour. You never know what’s going to happen next. You never know what phone call you’re going to get or what opportunity is going to arise.”

This opportunity was well deserved, as Anderson has spent the time and money to ensure his Rocket Man Show is an unbelievably accurate recreation, right down to the feathers and rhinestones.

“All of the costumes we have are exact replicas of costumes Elton wore, and a few of the items are actually Elton’s from the ‘70s,” Anderson said. “We have glasses, boots, a tuxedo, jumpsuit and various other things Elton wore in 1973 and ‘74. Because I cannot throw them off while I’m doing quick changes and I’m jumping around and crawling on the floor, I don’t really want to wreck that stuff, so a lot of the time what we do, is even though I have originals, I will make replicas. My wife Somali makes all of my outfits for me. She is Elton John’s actual costume consultant for all of the videos and photos that are used for his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour. Somali is also one of my singers in the show, along with her sister.”

Anderson has the music down too. He began playing piano at age 4, and has been playing John’s songs ever since.

“I started off singing and playing piano when I was just a little boy, like 4 years old,” Anderson said. “My dad bought me my first keyboard and would give me albums to learn. Of course, I went through the whole original bands thing as a teenager, rock bands, cover bands.

“As I got a bit older, I moved over to America in 2003 and when I came over here I started singing in piano bars. It was at that point people started saying, ‘You kind of remind us of Elton John.’ I would go, ‘Elton John? He’s like 60!’ Because at the time I’m like in my early 20s. They’re like, ‘No, Elton John from the ‘70s, back in the day when he was wearing all the fancy outfits. So I started researching a wee bit and I thought I kind of am a little bit like Elton John, physically, I play like him and I sound kind of like him.”

He decided to lean into the resemblance and see what happened. The Rocket Man Show was born.

“So we started putting together these little gimmicky tribute show nights at local beach bars here down in Clearwater, Florida,” he said. “After that, things started getting bigger and bigger. Before you know it, agents were calling and I had to get a band. It exploded really quickly and I think it’s because I focus on Elton from the ‘70s with the big outfits and all that and I obviously filled a demand for it. I’ve been doing this full time since 2009 and it just gets bigger and bigger every day.”

John’s lesions of fans show up to Anderson’s show craving a wild performance and their energy drives the antics even higher.

“The audiences that come to an Elton John tribute show, treat you like you’re the real Elton John right from the beginning,” Anderson said. “He has such die-hard fans, that when you walk out on stage, not only are they making as much noise as they would at a real Elton concert, they’re all dressed up in Elton John regalia. He has a very die-hard set of fans and that’s mostly who make it really worthwhile for us, because they just make you really feel like a rockstar up there.”

And in turn, Anderson gives them a rockstar performance, just as promised.

“We’re going to do the greatest hits — a really colorful, high-energy reenactment of his 1974 tour,” Anderson said. “We’re going to hit them hard with that. It’s just greatest hit after greatest hit. Every single one of them was a massive hit.

“Elton was a crazed, prolific performer back in the early ‘70s. He would jump on the piano, off the piano, he’d crawl under it, he’d jump up and play the drums, he’d grab the guitars, he’d jump off the stage and run around the stage. For the people who were around back then, we take them back, and the people who were not around back then, we show them what it was like.”

Laughlin guests can catch The Rocket Man Show Wednesday-Sunday, May 4-8 at Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort.

“I’m really excited to be going out there, this is going to be my first time in Laughlin,” Anderson said. “I already know the audiences are going to be wild!”

For more information on Anderson’s show and to see his promotional material for John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, visit EltonJohnTribute.com.