For whatever reason, there aren’t a lot of great renditions of Elton John’s “Have Mercy on the Criminal” on YouTube. There’s the unbeatable original, of course. But all of John’s live renditions are either poor audio bootlegs from the 1970s or more recent performances in which his mature (and admittedly richer) voice isn’t quite nimble enough to hit the frenzied highs which, in my opinion, are what give the song its frisson of feverish desperation. And there aren’t that many covers of the song either. By and large, musicians seem to be either unaware of it or afraid of it. What gives?
Here’s a shining exception. Celina Carvajal (aka Lena Hall) picks up Elton John’s long-disused falsetto notes and gives “Have Mercy on the Criminal” a blistering workout. If you can bear the not-great video quality and the muddy audio on the instruments, Hall’s astonishing pipes are well worth the listen:
Oh hell yes.
Hall is a Broadway belter currently on Kinky Boots as well as the frontwoman for the rock band The Deafening. More of her YouTube videos here. And here’s hoping for a studio-quality version of “Have Mercy”; EJ fans (this one, at least) would be eternally grateful.
(Photo via Playbill)