Ultimate Elton Fan

Joey Riedel is a familiar face in Vegas, with or without the flamboyant Elton John attire.
A crazy-good piano man is a crazy-good piano man no matter what, and the fact that his spot-on vocals sweeten the pot either way, it’s no wonder he’s always working and always in demand.
His multitude of talents come in handy as part of a duo in another popular show “Dueling Pianos,” where not only does he play piano and sing, he adds a little guitar to incite friendly battles between audience members who try to outbid each other to hear their favorite songs.
So in between piano gigs, he’s making a trip to the Tropicana Laughlin on Saturday, March 7 (7 p.m.) and bringing his show, “The Elton John Experience” with him.
Riedel has been a performer his whole life, starting at his junior high school dance with his first band at the age of 14.
Throughout the years, he has become the biggest Elton John fan ever and knows every song, every vocal, every backing vocal and every instrumental part inside and out because he takes the music and the role seriously. He’s taken the show across the globe performing successful concerts and private events.
In fact, Riedel has performed in Laughlin before as part of the “Face2Face” tribute show with Michael John portraying Billy Joel. Sadly that show came to an end when John passed away unexpectedly about six years ago.
“Joey brings a flamboyance to the show, dressing in different costumes that correspond to the different eras — from the ’70s to the ’90s,” John said about Riedel in a 2014 phone interview. “He’s got the musical chops, vocally and on the piano. Portraying Elton John really isn’t a stretch for him — just the way they both approach music and their passion and energy.”
As any performer understands, the show must go on, and Riedel continues to bring that passion and energy into the show he brings to town for the first time.
“Yes, this is the first time I’m doing the show by myself in Laughlin,” Riedel told the Laughlin entertainer.
“Somebody had to kick me in the butt to get me moving, because I’ve had a ‘cushy’ job for so long,” he added with a laugh. “I’m so fortunate — I go down the street and just start playing. It takes a toll on my voice after four or five nights, but I have my tea so that helps. Then I have a corporate thing tonight and I have a new album of all original music coming out, so I have a lot of stuff going on. I’m thankful every day and so appreciative of everything in my life.”
One of those blessings is his love and appreciation for all things Elton John and that’s what attracted him to the man and his music in the first place. It’s also what sets him apart from other tribute artists.
“It’s probably because I know that I have so much invested in him as a fan that I can do it,” he said. “Not to be conceited, I just know his material backwards and forwards better than anybody. I was such a fan when I was 8 years old.
“I remember my parents driving me to the record store and I’d talk to the guy there, ‘look, I’ve got his Yellow Brick Road album, what else can you give me,’ I’d ask him and he’d give me Tumbleweed Connection.
“I have fond memories of my brother and me — we’d take the album Captain Fantastic, for example, go into our bedroom where we had bunk beds, turn off all the lights and we’d just lay in our beds in the dark and listen to the music,” he said. “Who sits and listens to albums in the dark any more? Can you imagine kids today — where’s my tablet?
“I figured all the other kids were doing the same thing, looking at the album covers and looking at every image and all the details, but, boy, I was wrong. I love his music, the details were important to me.”
After Riedel’s performing partner passed away, he decided to go out on his own.
“Before he passed away, he would get us better bookings, but on the East Coast,” he said. “I was still doing shows here in Vegas and I’d be working here until 3 a.m., and get on a plane at 7 to work on the East Coast. When it comes to that much traveling, I’m not a fan.
“After he passed, I started doing shows in California that just went really, really well and the band I put together is just fantastic,” he added. “We’re not using any tracks, it’s all real piano playing and all real singing.”
It is that full band he’s bringing to his show at the Tropicana.
“I sacrificed a little but it’s necessary to have more band people to cover the parts,” he explained. “I know the stuff inside and out and they knew from the beginning, I expected nothing less from them, that I would know if something is wrong or right.
“With smaller shows, rarely do you get the exact look and sound, and I try hard to get everything right,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of costumes to do all three era looks — there’s really four, but I do the looks from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
“What makes my show stand out? I would say the quality overall is going to be better — sound wise and musicianship wise,” he said. “We have a dynamite band. We are a six-piece including me.
“I can’t just bring four pieces, I’m not going to sacrifice the quality,” he added. “If it’s not quite right for me, I’m not going to do it. I’m willing to sacrifice money for the show to sound right to my ears and to the most extreme Elton John fans.”
While Riedel will perform most of the songs people expect to hear, like “Crocodile Rock,” it is his more obscure songs he gravitates to.
“My personal favorites would probably have to be ‘Funeral For a Friend,’ and ‘Harmony.’ I love the ending tracks to Captain Fantastic, ‘We All Fall in Love Sometimes,’ and ‘Curtains,’ but, of course, I have to do songs like ‘Rocket Man,’ and ‘Bennie and The Jets.’
“Being a fan, to me, it’s the B tracks that didn’t get real popular that are the beautiful gems that a lot of people don’t know about,” he added. “In my show I can’t do those and I’d love to tell him to do a tour in smaller venues and do the B songs. For me it’s the ‘B’ songs on Yellow Brick Road. He had five hits and it was a double record. The other 12 songs are amazing.
“He has so much material and it’s all so great, and there are ears that need to hear it.”
Even when Riedel writes and records his own original music, the Elton John vibe definitely bleeds into the songs.
“We’re starting to do a promotion for the new album under Hollywood Land Records, and we’ve got that up on Amazon,” he said. “The songwriting is a slow melodic rock thing similar to Elton John on some tracks. At the last minute I decided not to title it under my name because when I played in Hollywood in the ’80s, I was with a hair band group called Samarin, so I’m going to stick with the album name, Soul Traveler.
“There’s a song on there called ‘Spinning Around,’ that’s similar to Elton John’s — I was so influenced by him, it just comes out of me. It’s definitely ‘Yellow Brick Road-ish. He has such a great falsetto, and it’s so strong, especially on ‘Bennie and The Jets.’ For me, that’s the first thing that goes out the window.
“I’m definitely going to be doing some more recording. I probably have 100 song ideas laying around I need to finish.
“At my Laughlin show, I’ll have some CDs under my own name, my new CDs and some Elton John photos to give away for signing as well,” he said. “I have to thank Billy Carmody with Stokes Productions for making this gig possible.”
What can audiences expect?
“You’re just gonna be wowed,” he laughs.


ELTON JOHN EXPERIENCE

Pavilion Theater at the Tropicana

Saturday, March 7 (7 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info