Sunday, November 25, 2007

Townsville Gets Makeover for Elton

THE smell of liniment will be replaced by the scent of roses when Elton John plays Townsville next week.

The visitors' changing room at Dairy Farmers Stadium has been allocated to the flamboyant rocker for his first foray into provincial Queensland.

But the surrounds of the spartan dressing room – "the sheds" in football-talk – will be nothing like those experienced on NRL match day by visiting rugby league giants.

Its bland walls and footy lockers will make way for new wall panels, furnishings and fittings to create backstage accommodation to the level of luxury expected by one of pop music's most enduring icons.

Customised curtains, carpet, couches, lighting, tables and chairs have been ordered to make the rock knight feel at home.

All changing facilities at the stadium will be used by performers, management and staff on the night, and "it was just the way it turned out" that Sir Elton ended up in the visitors' room, officials said. It's also closer to the stage.

Concert organisers declined to outline the 60-year-old's exact demands for his appearance, but a local florist will be enlisted to decorate his dressing room with large arrangements. And if past rules prevail, the stipulation will be "no chrysanthemums, carnations, daisies or lilies".

His requests at past concerts have included 80 fresh towels, 40kg of ice and for the room to be cooled to a set temperature.

"Remember that he is a true professional, so he likes to have a dressing room that he is comfortable with," said managing director for promoter Chugg Entertainment, Matthew Lazarus Hall.

Sir Elton will fly into Townsville by private jet just hours before the concert, and will be back on the plane headed for Sydney shortly after his final bow.

"He gets there early and does his own sound checks. He's very committed to putting on the best show he can," Mr Hall said. A sellout crowd of 21,000 is expected to turn out for the five-time Grammy winner on December 4.

The concert will be almost twice as big as any other of the nine shows he will play during his solo tour, which kicked off in South Australia's Barossa Valley last night and moves to the Gold Coast's Elysian polo fields today.

Townsville fans lobbied hard to lure the megastar to the north. Devotees Rhonda Thomson and June Maxwell have ordered special outfits from the US to ensure they stand out in the crowd.

"We're all going in costume. Really over-the-top stuff like big fluffy hats, long coats in pink and purple and quite a lot of glitter, and huge glasses with jewels," Ms Thomson said.

To stage the 2½ hour concert, more than 30 semi-trailers and 100 crew will bring the show north. It takes five days to erect and two days to dismantle a huge 60mx45m stage – one of three used on the tour – plus two super-screens and technical equipment. Flooring and more than 9000 chairs will be trucked in.

Instead of the standard pie and chips normally sold at the stadium during a Cowboys home game, fans will dine on Asian, German and Polynesian cuisines as well as seafood supplied by local restaurateurs and caterers.

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