Fan Gallery – Steven B.

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Photos 3 and 4 are from the September 17, 1976 show at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

After the long hot summer of ’76 here in the UK, Elton’s then-manager John Reid took over the Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre from August 20 to September 17. This is the time of year Edinburgh holds its famous annual arts festival, so John thought it a good idea to hire the Playhouse and have a “Festival Of Popular” music. Over the next month acts like Queen, Kiki Dee, Billy Connolly, Soft Machine, Rainbow and Crosby and Nash played. Elton’s guitarist Davey Johnstone also made an appearance with Bert Jansch and John Martyn.

I was lucky enough to get tickets in the 4th row right in front of Elton from the postal ballot for his concert on the 17th.

Having already seen Elton back on May 21 on the Louder Than Concorde Tour (photos 1 and 2) I was really interested to see and hear Elton for what would be the original solo gig.

Elton, dressed in a checked suit accompanied with white shirt and white glasses, appeared from below the theatre playing the venues old organ, then proceeded to walk across the stage to his piano. The theatre’s stage was covered with a pure white carpet and a few antiques, as well as a drinks cabinet.

He told us he was nervous, and yet this was a artist at the very top of his game – the biggest artist of the time who had only the year before had played Dodger Stadium. Yet here he was nervous in front of 3,200 people.

Elton opened the show with Skyline Pigeon after which he told us he would be playing a lot of songs which he didn’t usually play with the band and a couple of new songs from his upcoming album (Blue Moves). During the next hour, Elton gave us such classics as I Need You To Turn To, Sixty Years On, The Greatest Discovery and Rocket Man — all superbly played. And it was not like his Yamaha piano of today with all the technology inside it.

After Rocket Man, Elton introduced us to the first new song, Tonight, and told us it was the very first time he had actually played it live. Before Elton played Sweet Painted Lady he told us he had never sung it live before. Afterwards, he again said he really was petrified about tonight’s show and thanked us for being such a great audience. He then went into Your Song.

As Elton came out for the encore he launched into a fantastic raw version of Island Girl with The Bitch Is Back in the middle of the song. Elton fell to his knees at the end of the song and acknowledged the crowd before disappearing off stage…only to appear about a minute later for another encore. Having told us he had nothing else prepared or rehearsed, he said he was “mad doing this but here goes,” and went in that summer’s biggest hit, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. As it was solo, he sang Kiki Dee’s part as well as his own! Funny thing was, the previous week Elton had joined Kiki on stage at her Playhouse gig to duet on Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.

Elton then thanked everyone for making the last four weeks possible and that he’d had an “effing great time.” He then began the final song of the night, Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting). Half way through, Elton thanked his sound engineer Clive Franks and got up on top of the piano (after giving away the piano stool to someone in the front row) to lead the crowd into one big sing-along. Someone threw a tartan scarf onto the top of the piano and Elton tied it around his head bandana-style and continued with the sing-along…at one point jumping from atop the piano.

What a superb concert. I feel really privileged to have been at one of the most iconic Elton concerts of all time, hearing raw renditions of some of the best lyrics ever written. No band, no strings, no fancy piano. What a gig! I have never seen another solo gig like it since and don’t think I ever will!

Complete Set List for September 17, 1976:

  • Skyline Pigeon
  • I Need You To Turn To
  • Sixty Years On
  • Border Song
  • Daniel
  • Love Song
  • The Greatest Discover
  • Candle In The Wind
  • Bennie And The Jets
  • I Think I’m Going To Kill Myself
  • Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
  • Better Off Dead
  • Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
  • Someone Saved My Life Tonight
  • Sweet Painted Lady
  • Your Song
  • Island Girl/The Bitch Is Back
  • Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
  • Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)

Steven B.