Elton John came to conquer Glastonbury with an “all killer, no filler” performance, and give his worthy band their first, and last, appearance at the famous rock and new age music festival which has been going nearly as long as Elton’s solo career.
Wearing a shimmering silver-gold suit and red-tinted glasses, Elton arrived and swiftly and rather business-like took to his hallmark Yamaha piano grand. He looked decidedly nervous, even a little upset. This was in front of a disparate audience he had never played to, and an alternative concert line-up had been promised. It took a good hour for Elton to warm up with the crowd despite the mostly young crowd singing along to his every song.
It was also always going to be a hard gig. To live up to the hype of special surprise guests and deliver a fresh concert. Fans had speculated in the run-up who might be on stage with him. Sir Paul McCartney was one of those cited, as was Britney Spears and Billy Joel. In fact, wearing shades Sir Paul was to be seen in the crowd a few times. Not many celebrities were caught on camera at this gig.
Kiki Dee had said earlier to GB TV that she was not on stage this time. While Adam Chester, Elton’s stand-in who could be briefly seen in camera during Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, had already told Radio Elton John on this website a month back that another female singer was going to be on stage.
Elton was on the Pyramid stage and was one of two headliners – the other Guns N’ Roses – who were performing at Glastonbury for the first time. For Elton it would also mark his last.
The hype was of Elton’s last UK gig. Well, yes but maybe no. It is his last of a tour, albeit this appearance was technically an add-on and not part of the Farewell Tour. But it does not mean he won’t appear for concerts and maybe residences in the UK in the future.
But tonight the focus was on this affordably priced concert and not on future fundraisers that are likely to be out of pocket for most ardent fans.
It was great to see Pinball Wizard as his first song but it was difficult not to lament what might have been had Elton taken the stage 20 years earlier. What energy he and his experienced band could have transmitted into the crowd.
BBC 1 Television had the performance live, and iPlayer was about 2 minutes lag. In case you missed it, the show will be archived on iPlayer for later.
After the first trio of songs it became clear that Elton was again focussing on the 1970s as he has done on the formulaic Farewell Tour. For Daniel he asked fans to sing along and it was great to see images of the gruesome Vietnam War on the screen projector. For those who don’t know, one verse of Daniel was removed by Elton and that had made it clear the song was about a US Veteran soldier.
During Goodbye Yellow Brick Road there was a glimpse of partner David Furnish and the boys, who have turned out for many of Elton’s gigs this year.
It was good to see this in what was a crowd of around 100,000.
Elton then chose after Philadelphia Freedom to offer a longer commentary, taking his glasses off. He reminisced the great artists of the Philly Sound – and he was quite right – such as The Drifters, Dionne Warwick and, after some help from the band, The Detroit Spinners. Then he said Thom Bell sessions didn’t do well at first. Gabriels’ Jacob Lusk and the Gospel choir, who had rehearsed under the auspices of Adam Chester then came on stage and helped with dance classic Are You Ready for Love?
About three-quarters of an hour into the gig and as Sad Songs was closing, Elton finally started to enjoy himself and even smiled.
Elton then introduced on stage a 20-year singer songwriter called Steven Sanchez. Elton said he will perform one of Steven’s songs, Until I found you, which sounded very Buddy Holly.
As cameras panned out over a moonlit Glastonbury during Your Song it was an amazing city of dwellings! A real community.
“That’s your song, Glastonbury,” Elton said as he finished his 1971 classic.
After Candle in the Wind, which had one fan sobbing, it was time to invite on another special surprise guest. Brandon Flowers, of The Killers made his first appearance on the Pyramid Stage since 2019 and duetted on Tiny Dancer.
By this stage, it was apparent that the vast majority of the songs on at Glastonbury were the same as in the Farewell Tour, but re-ordered.
This was not the gala send-off that I and many other fans had hoped it would be.
But there was some good humour. At this point, Elton remarked that his trousers were falling off!
Rina Sawayama was next on stage to duet with Elton on Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. Adam was on piano.
With 35 minutes of the show to go, Elton fully snapped out of his mood and was enjoying the show, catching up with the rest of the crowd!
Elton fans had muscled to the front of the stage and Live Laugh Elton said one fan’s placard.
Some fans had speculated that Dua Lipa would be a guest. But instead Elton played their chart topping Cold Heart single alone.
Perhaps the most poignant moment came when Elton reminded the audience that talented singer George Michael would have been 60 years old today before dedicating Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.
My dad once heard George Michael on radio and thought it was me. I said “it’s Michael not Matlock!” I went into radio, but the other side of the mic.
Elton then launched Rocket Man, a long experimental version. It even had a tease of Have Mercy on the Criminal, did you catch it?
Band took a bow, before leaving the stage to the outro tune of Hold Me Closer, the 2022 duet hit Elton had with Britney Spears.
Punctually on two hours the show and the festival ended.
We would welcome hearing your Concert Feedback views on Elton’s Glastonbury gig. Get in touch!
- Pinball Wizard
- The Bitch is Back
- Bennie & The Jets
- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
- I Guess That’s Why they Call it the Blues
- Philadelphia Freedom
- Are you Ready for Love? (Gospel Choir)
- Sad Songs (Say So Much)
- Someone Saved My Life Tonight
- Until I Found You (with Stephen Sanchez)
- Your Song
- Candle In the Wind
- Tiny Dancer (with Brandon Flowers)
- Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (with Rina Sawayama)
- Crocodile Rock
- Saturday Night’s Alright (for fighting)
- I’m Still Standing
- Cold Heart (solo)
- Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
- Rocket Man
- Hold Me Closer (outro)