Glastonbury Review: Elton John

June 26, 2023

It turns out that the talk of his decline when it comes to live performance had been greatly exaggerated. And not just by a bit. We’re talking about a verrrryyy long shot. Contrary to scurrilous rumour, Elton John’s voice wasn’t just of its classic vintage, but his whole show operated on an entirely different plane to the other headliners on the Pyramid Stage who preceded him this year.

So, if you’re wondering if it sounded as good in the field as it did on the box, let us confirm: it absolutely did. Elton pitched his own ball into the air and smashed it over the heads of the gargantuan crowd and into neighbouring Wiltshire. Okay, so he seemingly couldn’t afford a trouser belt for his spangly gold suit, and he looked unsteady on his feet, but everything else was faultless, including his savant-like piano playing, which was effortlessness personified.

“It might be my last show ever in England, so I had better play well and entertain you,” he proposed before commencing a rollicking two-hour charge through his five-decade career. Perhaps understandably, focus rested on his timeless 70s output. Maybe it was the combination of Worthy Farm’s magical status and this supposed final UK curtain, but he certainly didn’t scrimp when it came to giving people great big hunks of what they wanted. Just when you thought you had mentally accounted for all of his bigger/biggest songs, another one came along. This was a masterclass in songcraft and showmanship. Fireworks greeted the closing Rocketman, but aside from Elton’s trademark snazzy garb and specs, but you’d be hard pushed to see anything on stage apart from expert musicianship. The substance was the songs, and the songs were the substance.

Of course, speculation had been rife leading up to the show about guest appearances. You could sense the saliva slathering from mouths around murmurs of a possible Britney Spears and/or Paul McCartney duet. Sadly, neither materialised (although McCartney stood to the side of the stage looking on). But there were guests, and the guests Elton plucked were from the next crop of stars. Good ol’ Elton, still sending the elevator back down in the name of helping the up and comers.

This included a rather self-assured (read: “arrogant” to these eyes) Stephen Sanchez (for a cover of Sanchez’s TikTok hit, Until I Found You), Gabriel’s Jacob Lusk (Are You Ready For Love), and Rina Sawayama (Don’t Go Breaking My Heart). There was also space for the bright pearly whites of The Killers’ Brandon Flowers to support Elton through a truly spellbinding Tiny Dancer.

And the hits kept coming: Benny and the Jets, Your Song, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, I’m Still Standing, Crocodile Rock. The list goes on. This was a journey through songs that have been staples of radios and record players over the years, and even now glisten like diamonds in the age of streaming. No wonder he had such a big turnout for his final UK show.

What a talent. What a legend. What a way to sign off Glastonbury 2023. Elton delivered an all-time classic destined to be exhumed whenever the BBC trot out their retrospectives on iPlayer or welcome you to “hit the red button”. It was amazing. Someone really should have given him a belt for his trousers though.

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