As Elton John performed at Glastonbury for the final UK concert of his farewell tour, the curtain came down on one of the greatest careers in British music history.
With a playlist that never ceased delivering iconic pop moments, the 76-year-old maestro gave his audience a masterclass in songwriting and stagecraft.
Every song was the greatest hit for two hours, including Bennie And The Jets, Tiny Dancer, Your Song, and I’m Still Standing.
He exclaimed to the audience, “I’m so glad to be here. “I won’t forget this at all.”
Elton entered the stage shortly after 21:00 BST and immediately launched into Pinball Wizard, a song he hadn’t performed in almost a decade, as promised. He then launched into a wild performance of The Bitch Is Back.
He took in the enormous crowd—estimated to number over 120,000—while pausing to regain his breath and extended his arms in thanks.
He remarked, “I never believed I’d play Glastonbury, and here I am.
“This could be my last show in England, in Great Britain, so it’s a very special and emotional night for me.”
You’ve been standing there for a while, so I’d better perform well and keep you entertained,” he continued.
A supporter yelled in the audience next to me, “Go on, you old sausage.”
The performance took place at the end of Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, which has officially earned $887 million (£697 million) in box office revenue.
There are just seven more gigs after Glastonbury, with the final performance on July 8 in Stockholm.
It brings to an end a career in traveling that saw Elton transition from a brash newcomer rocking the Troubador in Los Angeles to a cherished staple of the rock establishment.
He’s developed a reputation for extravagant excess, including feather boas, platform heels, ornate headdresses, and pianos that catch fire.
“I don’t move around the stage,” he argued. “I need to draw attention in some way!”
But by Elton’s standards, Glastonbury was a modest performance that only highlighted his passion for music.
He wore the same gold lamé suit the entire evening, giving off the impression of a man who is happiest when he is playing the piano and letting loose.
That’s Why They Call It The Blues and Your Song both featured stunning, lengthy flourishes. He forcefully banged the keys on the song I’m Still Standing, and they almost came off.
It must be acknowledged, nevertheless, that his voice has changed. Although his singing at Worthy Farm had a Vegas lounge singer’s clipped vowels and marmalade diction, it was curiously effective, cutting through the air with a clarity that other headliners this weekend were unable to equal.
Elton John gave the next generation a change
The weekend before the concert, speculations of special visitors had been circulating. Rumor has claimed that Britney Spears was spotted at Bristol Airport. A security officer claimed to have seen Dua Lipa. Harry Styles was expected to be present, but he failed to show up, then showed up again.
Elton ultimately defied convention and supported up-and-coming performers over pop icons who might easily headline Glastonbury themselves.
He asked US soul group Gabriel’s member Jacob Lusk to perform Are You Ready For Love, and he substituted Rina Sawayama for Kiki Dee on a fiery rendition of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.
Stephen Sanchez from Nashville even had the opportunity to perform a song he wrote Until I Found You.
The only exception was Brandon Flowers of The Killers, who performed a gorgeous duet with Tiny Dancer on stage while dressed in a hot pink suit.
Their performance moved viewers so much that TV cameras captured a proposal in the crowd.
Overall, though, there was a wave of dissatisfaction due to the lack of star power. One supporter complained, “Who’s that?” when Sawayama took the stage.
However, it also had a commendable quality. Elton remained true to who he was—a rock and pop maniac whose thirst for music has fueled and sustained his career.
The two-hour production reached an emotional high point.
Elton credits George Michael with being “one of Britain’s most fantastic singers, songwriters [and] artists” in the dedication of Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.
“He was my friend, an inspiration, and today would have been his 60th birthday – I want to dedicate this song to his memory and all the music he left us with, which is so gorgeous,” he continued.
Then, as fireworks erupted all around the venue, he concluded his UK tour with a prolonged, elegiac rendition of Rocket Man.
The final line, “I think it’s gonna be a long, long time,” took on a new poignancy as he and his band made their farewell bow.
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The actor cried as he remarked, “I’ve had the best time. It’s been an incredible journey.”
He wasn’t alone in this.
If this was his final performance in the UK, it was the ideal way to go out.
In order to accommodate the star’s large audience, Glastonbury instituted a “standing only” rule and asked attendees to put their seats and blankets away.
Paul McCartney, Matt Smith, Kate Hudson, Jamie Oliver, Taron Egerton, who portrayed Elton in the successful biopic Rocketman, and director Dexter Fletcher of the movie were among those in attendance.
Following high-profile performances by Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses, Lana Del Rey, WizKid, Lizzo, Blondie, and Cat Stevens, the performance brought the 2023 Glastonbury festival to an end.
The event will be held again the following year, and two female headliners have already been secured, according to organizer Emily Eavis.