On a winter’s night in 1982, Elton John opened the Royal Concert Hall and was so impressed he promised “to play Nottingham a lot” in the future. ANDY SMART looks back to the show in advance of his return
The Post headlined it A Night To Remember – and they still talk about the time Elton John lit up the Royal Concert Hall.
The city council had wanted a stellar name to open their £12m entertainment flagship and back in 1982, they didn’t come any bigger than the Rocket Man.
Elton did not let the city down.
He arrived in a burgundy Rolls-Royce, dressed modestly in a fawn suit and straw boater, and did everything that was asked of him. He signed books and autographs, posed for photos, met the fans and gave two concerts that rocked the new venue to its expensive rafters.
His first job was to switch on the controversial neon sculpture which had come in for a fair amount of criticism, having been likened by one onlooker to “collapsed scaffolding”.
But after pushing down the plunger to shoot a rainbow of colours through the tangle of light tubes, Elton said: “It’s great … usually you get a piece of boring stone,” before adding: “I’ve never been asked to open anything before, I feel very honoured.”
He dutifully endured a round of handshakes with local bigwigs and even posed, arms around their shoulders, with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Coun and Mrs Peter Burgess.
Then it was down to the real business of the night.
Gone was the sober lounge suit. In its place was an outfit perfectly described by the Post as something the “dictator of some banana republic” would wear.
It shone with gold braid, rhinestones and mock medals while Elton simply oozed class… all a far cry from his first appearance in the city, back in the 1960s as Reg Dwight, playing keyboards at one of the boat clubs with Long John Baldry.
Elton put the Royal Concert Hall’s hi-tech acoustic system to the test with a string of hits including Rocket Man, Pinball Wizard and Saturday Night’s All Right For Fighting.
It was vintage stuff, summed up by Royal Centre director Barrie Stead as “a giant party”. Elton praised a “marvellous building” and “promised to play Nottingham a lot”. He returned three years later and, on November 26, will fulfil his pledge again.
When Elton John arrived in Nottingham, the city was in the grip of one of the coldest Novembers on record.
Temperatures plunged below zero and fog came rolling in off the Trent.
The football-mad singer spent the afternoon at the City Ground watching Forest beat Manchester City 3-0, while his own beloved Watford were also winning 4-3 away in London.
He had plenty to smile about as the bank rate of nine per cent was adding to his whopping fortune.
But he wasn’t the only celebrity in the news.
Prince Andrew was making headlines with his current girlfriend, actress Koo Stark.
Elton lavished praise on the new Royal Concert Hall, two years in construction, urging local people to support it.
It was certainly an improvement on the unsightly car park it replaced, which had been left behind when the old Empire Theatre was pulled down in 1969.
The civic opening was held a few days later, on December 2, when city chart-toppers Paper Lace joined Thoresby Colliery, the South Notts Hussars and Bestwood Black Diamonds brass bands, plus the County Orchestra and Nottingham Harmonic Choir for a three-hour feast of entertainment.