“Oh wow, I never thought I’d play Glastonbury, but here I am,” coyly shrugs Elton John. “I’d better entertain you as you as you’ve been standing there so long.”
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Some on the front row had reportedly been camping out there since midnight the night before, but we’ve all been long overdue Elton’s Glasto moment. Up there with Madonna and the late Prince, an Elton John headline set was one of those eternal rumours. Tonight would have been seismic and historic under normal circumstances, but this – a peak in Sir Elton’s mammoth Farewell Yellow Brick Road world tour – is anything but a standard ‘show up and play the hits’ gig. It marks the last time you’ll ever see him perform in the UK (allegedly). On Worthy Farm’s hallowed ground, he promised a brand new live production to his other recent dates, and four, count ’em FOUR, very special guests.
Rumours of potential guest stars were rife all week: everyone from UK rock upstarts Nova Twins to a holidaying Britney Spears and last year’s headliner Paul McCartney (who’s been enjoying the Pilton bash all weekend). Hell, Dave Grohl has been popping up everywhere else this week, so why the hell not him too, eh?
Unusually, all the rumours were wrong – even for Dua Lipa not being present for ‘Cold Heart’, to some bemusement from the crowd. Instead, bar one, Elton tells us that he opted for “newer” special guests. Jacob Lusk from Gabriels lends some sweet soul to ‘Are You Ready For Love’, Rina Sawayama absolutely slays Kiki Dee’s part on ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ and he even has Glastonbury singing along to Steven Sanchez viral hit ‘Until I Found You’, rather than have him duet on one of his. Just as with Rocket Hour radio show and 2021 collaborative album ‘The Lockdown Sessions’, Elton is as much concerned in the future as he is the past.
The closest thing to an ‘old school’ turn comes from The Killers‘ frontman Brandon Flowers, who adds a little bit of that fabulous Vegas glamour to ‘Tiny Dancer’, but it’s merely the icing on an absolutely awesome cake. The crowd present are all ages, with the youngest singing even louder for one simple reason: Elton’s music is timeless and travels. Banger after banger comes, with never a lull.
Look at that setlist – it can’t be improved. As previously promised, the ending segment of the show saw “all hell break loose”. ‘Crocodile Rock’, massive. ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting’, feral. ‘I’m Still Standing’, the summit. ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’, dedicated to George Michael on what would have been his 60th birthday. We were spoiled tonight. Flares light the sky, friends hold one another and an epic firework finale sees us into a monumental closer of ‘Rocket Man’. His one stage move (rising from the piano, arms outstretched, and smiling) is all he needs. The songs and his heart do the rest. Everyone here is on his side. Go on Reg.
“I’m so happy to be here,” he says, profoundly touched. “I’m never gonna forget this.”
None of us will. Sir Elton left everything on the field. It was a Glasto set for the ages from a true all-time great. We’ll never see his kind again. So long, Rocketman – and thank you.
Elton John’s setlist was:
‘The Bitch Is Back’
‘Bennie and the Jets’
‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’
‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues’
‘Are You Ready for Love’ (with Jacob Lusk from Gabriels and London Community Gospel Choir)
‘Sad Songs (Say So Much)’ (with London Community Gospel Choir)
‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’
‘Until I Found You’ (with Stephen Sanchez)
Candle in the Wind’
‘Tiny Dancer’ (with Brandon Flowers)
‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ (with Rina Sawayama)
‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting’
‘I’m Still Standing’
‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’
Check out all the latest from Glastonbury 2023 on the NME liveblog here, and see more news, reviews, photos, interviews and more here.
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