Rock Nation School Tribute Performs in LA
There was standing room only when the Rock Nation School Tribute to Elton John, featuring three members of the Elton John Band and student musicians, drew hundreds of fans to the famed Canyon Club near Los Angeles on Sunday, September 26.
Guitarist Davey Johnstone, drummer Nigel Olsson and percussionist John Mahon sat in on several Elton John songs being performed by young students in the two-hour show, including "Rocket Man" and "Take Me to the Pilot," as well as three original songs written by 12-year-old Ben Babylon. The son of Elton John's late keyboardist and arranger, Guy Babylon, is a student at Rock Nation, and has composed several songs, two of which were inspired by his father. Although billed as a tribute to Elton John, the concert also paid homage to elder Babylon, who died of a heart attack just over one year ago.
Babylon and Mahon opened the show with "No Goodbyes on the Road," Babylon's song about people being in such a hurry that there often is not time to say goodbye. That was followed by the more upbeat "Write Your Own Song," on which Olsson performed with Babylon and Mahon. Johnstone then joined the group on "Goodbye Superman," Babylon's stirring tribute to his late father, made all the more powerful by Johnstone's razor-sharp guitar riffs.
"It means a lot to me, to be here for Guy," Johnstone said. "He was my closest bud in a musical sense, and in a sports sense. Whenever we were touring, we would discuss basketball and soccer as much as music. I miss him dearly.
"Guy was an influence on all of us musically and as a friend," said Mahon. "It is a fitting tribute to him, for us to actually play on stage with his son."
"Ben has come a long way through a tough time," Olsson added. "It's very impressive to see him rock out."
Many of Guy Babylon's friends and relatives were in the audience, including his widow, songwriter Kathy Babylon, his parents and his sister. Also present were several VIP guests from music, film and television, including actor/singer Frankie Avalon, film composer Max Di Carlo, television writer/producer Charlie Bowyer, and film producer/director Peter R.J. Deyell.
"After watching him (Ben Babylon) perform, it's clear that he really understands music," Deyell said. "When he plays keyboards, his whole body is playing. The other musicians in the show were also excellent, especially the drummers."
Approximately two-dozen students from Rock Nation School took turns performing in the concert. Among them was drummer Juliet Johnstone, daughter of Davey Johnstone. Also performing was Johnstone's son, Jesse, who is a professional recording engineer, but also plays bass, as well as other instruments.
Rock Nation is a private rock-music school with four locations throughout the Los Angeles area. Owner Tony Avalon has produced many tribute concerts featuring the music of different rock stars. However, said that having members of the Elton John Band take time to perform onstage with his students, at no charge, was especially meaningful.
"This show was a celebration of two musical geniuses," he said. "It was very heart-warming. Everybody in the audience was blown away, and the kids were awesome. Having them play with rock stars that I looked up to was amazing. It was a night to remember."
Information about Rock Nation is available at www.RockNationSchool.com.
Information about Ben Babylon and Guy Babylon is available at www.BabylonMusic.biz.
Chasen Hampton, Tony Avalon
Peter R.J. Deyell and Jesse Johnstone
Max Di Carlo, Davey Johnstone
Rock Nation School
Rock Nation School
Nigel Olsson, John Mahon, Davey Johnstone
Kathy Babylon and Ben Babylon