Elton & Crew Feast on Prime Rib, Amongst Other Things...
Elton John may be on stage for a couple of hours Friday night when his "Rocket Man" greatest hits tour stops at the Sovereign Center in downtown Reading, but his performance is the culmination of a multiweek preparation that includes dozens of people, hours of preparation — and lots of fresh flowers.
One of the challenges facing the staff at the Sovereign Center is to make each star who visits feel special for the time he or she is in the building. And the bigger the star, the more grandiose the treatment.
"Every artist that comes through (the Sovereign Center venues) has different likes and dislikes and wants and needs and requirements," said Zane Collings, regional general manager for SMG, which operates the Sovereign Center.
Elton John is no different, although his requirements are neither quirky nor odd.
"Elton loves fresh flowers," Collings said. "He loves them and wants large amounts of them. So Heck Brothers and his group do a great job with that task. They did a great job the last time Elton came through here (in 2004), and I know he’ll come through again."
John’s second request is that the food served to him, his entourage and employees be absolutely delicious.
"He has a very high-end taste for catering," Collings said. "So we always roll out the red carpet for him with prime rib and that kind of thing."
Collings said the Coca Cola VIP lounge also got some upgrades to make John and his people feel more comfortable.
It’s part of the reason acts like Elton John return to this venue again and again.
"We wouldn’t be able to get the act back to the venue if we didn’t have the support of the community, too," Collings added. "Treating the crew, the agents, the manager and the entire entourage great is fine. But if you didn’t sell tickets, acts would not come back."
And Berks County is happy to support Elton John, who is doing just a couple of tour stops stateside before he leaves for an international tour on May 1 that won’t have him back in this country again until mid-July.
John has much from which to choose for his time on stage, though, as he’s won five Grammy awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Tony for his music as well as charted 50 Top 40 hits and seven consecutive No. 1 albums.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and is rumored to be on a short list of people to take Simon Cowell’s seat on next season’s "American Idol," where he appeared last week as part of the "Idol Gives Back" fund raiser.
His career kicked off in America with songs such as "Your Song," "Crocodile Rock" and "Daniel" but continued through "Bennie and the Jets," "Candle in the Wind," "Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me," and "I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues."
Through all the success and documented diva behavior, John has remained popular with fans and promoters, and Collings said he’s nothing less than a nice guy who wants to treat his staff well.
The staff at the Sovereign Center also tries to find an appropriate gift to give the stars who appear there. The last time John was in town he was collecting horse statues, so the Sovereign Center staff worked with one of his personal shoppers to find him a 12-inch crystal horse.
"He was quite surprised," said Collings, adding that his staff was currently working on securing this year’s gift.
It’s all part of making sure that everyone in the entourage feels special, from the top man down.
"What people don’t completely understand is that life on the road may seem glitzy and glamorous, but really, a typical day (for the staff) begins at 7 a.m. when they climb off a bunk on a bus and get to work," Collings said. "They work 12 hours setting up, so that you can walk in the door and say, "AWESOME," and then after the star performs they’ve got another three hours of work to do before they can climb back onto the bus."
So Collings and his staff try to make the Sovereign Center as homey as possible.
"Our job is to make this place their home for the 24 hours they are here," he said. "We had one high-end band where one of the members wanted satellite television and the other wanted cable, so we gave them separate rooms and brought in satellite. We want to take care of the (acts) that come here."
Although the stars will usually show up in the late afternoon for a sound check, Collings said they are very aware of how their entourage has been treated throughout the day.
"With Elton John, all 70 people are eating prime rib," Collings said. "When his people are happy, Elton John is happy."