Monday, June 15, 2009
All roads led to Ashley Down on Saturday night, as thousands of Elton John fans made their way to Gloucestershire County Cricket Club to see the world-famous star play the first ever-concert on the ground.
This was a concert for people of all ages. There were mums and dads with their young children, groups of students, 30-somethings wearing pink cowboy hats with frivolous abandon, and grey-haired music lovers who could dance with the best of them.
In Nevil Road, unofficial temporary stalls had been set up that were doing a brisk trade in ponchos as the rain began to fall at about 6pm, but then returned to selling glow sticks, bunny ears and the aforementioned pink cowboy hats, one of which was thrown onstage and Sir Elton placed on his grand piano for most of the night before wearing it for Your Song, the last song of the night.
"I've never looked so butch," he joked, before saying that it would form part of next season's kit for Watford, the football club where he is honorary life president.
There were a few Watford kits among the crowd, and these yellow shirts were among the less colourful outfits that included feather boas, wigs, oversize glasses (some of which also started flashing as the night drew in) and, of course, the cowboy hats in a variety of outlandish colours.
Most of the 10,000 fans sat on the outfield of the ground, with seats placed directly onto the grass, which felt like a carpet underfoot it was so pristine.
Above our heads, several hot air balloons glided serenely past as support act Richard Fleeshman played. Back on terra firma, Sir Elton and his band were dwarfed by the huge stage, and for those who could not see the musicians, two giant screens on either side broadcast live footage, including from a camera on Sir Elton's piano that showed just what a phenomenal player he is.
The sound was crisp, the songs were note-perfect, and Sir Elton sung them all with passion and vigour.
The drama queen also endeared himself to his many fans by taking several minutes to sign many items handed to him by audience members as he returned to for the encore.
One of the few gripes on the night were the long queues for food and drink, some of which were well over half-an-hour long.
There was also plenty of work for the stewards, who were told to get everybody standing up to sit down, before their job was made redundant as the sun set and every single member of the crowd had risen to their feet.
Many of the more adventurous fans were standing from the start, and it was a game of cat and mouse, as the stewards told them to sit down as they were blocking the view of people behind them, they sat down, and then stood up again as the stewards walked away.
Fans embraced the concert for what it was – an evening of high camp with timeless pop songs that span generations.
And to keep that memory fresh, for sale after the concert was a CD of the show, ready for collection mere minutes after the closing bars of Your Song, as the fireworks exploded in the night sky above Ashley Down.
SET LIST FOR EUROPEAN TOUR
Funeral For A Friend
Love Lies Bleeding
Saturday Night Alright (For Fighting)
Burn Down The Mission
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
I Want Love
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Take Me To The Pilot
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
All The Young Girls Love Alice
Candle In The Wind (solo)
Are You Ready For Love
Bennie And The Jets
The Bitch Is Back
I’m Still Standing