It’s hard to think of two more timeless and successful entertainers than Billy Joel and Sir Elton John.

Long-time Wellingtonian musicians Sam Hyde and Cam Crawford are also big fans and are currently touring the country with a tribute show, which is about to stop in Queenstown, featuring some of the best-loved songs by Sir Elton and Joel.

Crawford says for a few years they’ve had a ‘‘duelling piano show’’, and were frequently asked to play the iconic musicians’ hits.

‘‘Sam had been on to me about the success of the superstars ‘Face to Face’ tours, and we came up with the idea to do one of our own.

‘‘We went into rehearsals, got a couple of grand pianos and got the show together, then the pandemic started.’’

During lockdowns the pair rehearsed individually and fine-tuned every aspect, before finally hitting the road with ‘Elton John vs Billy Joel’.

The current tour’s a continuation of last year’s, which sold out multiple theatres and large venues.

The musical mates are proud of developing a show with international standards, buying an all-Kiwi crew and in doing so, supporting up to 300 New Zealanders into work.

Hyde and Crawford, both 52, learned piano at an early age and have been professional musicians in a huge number of successful bands over the years as well as performing on luxury cruise ships.

When they joined forces in 2016 they discovered a shared passion for live performance and a love of the Rocket Man and Piano Man legends.

Each coming with hectic back catalogues, it’s a challenge to decide which songs to include in their show.

‘‘We wrote down 150 songs, and put them on the floor at Sam’s place.

‘‘We’d argue — ‘this one’s in, this is out’ — then we whittled them down to about 40.

‘‘There are 20 staples that we play every gig — expect everything from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road to Crocodile Rock to Tiny Dancer to You May Be Right — but we mix it up depending on where we are playing.’’

Incredibly, they also travel with a couple of grand pianos, one white, one black.

‘‘These have a particular tone and are a big part of the show,’’ Crawford says.

‘‘We set them up so they look magical on stage.

‘‘Sometimes when we’re de-rigging after a show we think it would’ve been easier to have duelling ukuleles.’’

Getting into character’s important, too.

Hyde, who’s Sir Elton, comes out in costumes and sparkles and a dramatic set of angel wings, while Crawford plays the whole show in
dark-coloured Ray Bans.

‘‘I see as much as Ray Charles with them on, but I look cool,’’ he laughs.

They’re looking forward to rolling into the resort, a place they both have a strong connection to.

Hyde was a resort resident in the mid-90s, who played in Condition Red and, later, Uncle Monkey, Eichardt’s resident band in 1994/’95.

He says it formed as an ‘‘on holiday for summer’’ band, involving busking in The Mall.

‘‘We busked, which turned into gigs, including gigs at Skyline restaurant up the top of the gondola, where our baby grand piano, ‘Andy’, lived for several years.’’

He also recalls playing to about 10,000 people on Earnlsaw Park one New Year’s Eve — unbeknown to him, his now wife, who was just 17 at the time, was in the crowd — and during the 1994 WinterFest, while he also did a few live-to-airs on what was Q92FM, and album promotion
tours at Winnies in The Mall.

Rumour has it, Uncle Monkey even went on to perform at former All Black Dan Carter’s wedding.

Crawford says the Queenstown Lakes has always had a special place in his heart, spending family holidays in Queenstown and Wānaka in a family crib, learning to ski at Cardrona, gold panning in the Arrow River, and coming for a break with his now-wife when the couple got engaged.

As to what the Queenstown audience can expect, Crawford says they’re ‘‘naughty boys — we like to have a party’’.

‘‘We’re having fun ourselves and we expect audiences to sing along.

‘‘Everyone who comes to this show, I can guarantee you an extra year of life — subject to conditions.’’

Elton John vs Billy Joel, Queenstown Memorial Centre, Saturday — doors 7pm for a 7.30pm start. Tickets from $40 via Ticketek

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