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October 5, 2017

Diamond Moments: 1974 North American Tour

Elton in front of the Starship at Los Angeles Airport's Charter Terminal. (Photo: Sam Emerson)
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Elton in front of the Starship at Los Angeles Airport's Charter Terminal. (Photo: Sam Emerson)

We are selecting Diamond Moments from Elton's 50-year career to celebrate the November 10th release of Elton’s ultimate greatest hits collection, 'Diamonds'.

Today we look back at Elton’s 1974 Tour of North America.

Following a summer “off” where, amongst other things, they recorded the Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy album and the non-LP singles Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and Philadelphia Freedom, Elton and his band launched their biggest American tour yet… and his eighth in just four years.

Tickets were nearly impossible to get and the people lucky enough to obtain them often had to sleep out overnight at the venue's box office window months or weeks in advance in order to do so.

Supporting Caribou (which had been released six months after it was recorded in January) and Elton’s first Greatest Hits album (issued in November), the tour comprised 45 concerts in 31 cities over a period of 70 days. It began at the Dallas, TX Convention Center on September 25 and ended at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA on December 3.

The total distance travelled? Roughly 16,000 miles.

This torrid pace, an average of one concert every 1.5 days, necessitated the use of a private jet. Nicknamed “The Starship” and emblazoned with “Elton John Band Tour 1974” along the fuselage, the custom-designed (bedroom, fake fireplace, 30-foot brass-trimmed bar with electric organ included, etc.) Boeing 720 had also been used by Elton the year before and allowed the band to use a few cities across America as hubs…as opposed to having to travel from venue to venue and hotel to hotel as the tour worked its way across the continent.

12 of the 19 songs on Elton's 1974 North American tour’s typical set list can be found on the Deluxe Version of 'Diamonds' (starred):

Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
★  Candle In The Wind
Grimsby
★  Rocket Man
Take Me To The Pilot
★  Bennie And The Jets
★  Daniel
Grey Seal
★  Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Burn Down The Mission
You're So Static
★  Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
★  Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me
★  Honky Cat
All The Girls Love Alice
 Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)
★  Crocodile Rock
★  Your Song
★  The Bitch Is Back

Two of these songs sounded noticeably different live than they were on record. Daniel was given a pseudo-samba feel and percussionist Ray Cooper won fans over with an extended duck call solo on Honky Cat.

By any measure, the biggest show of the year was on Thanksgiving evening, when John Lennon joined “Elton and the boys” on stage for three songs at New York’s Madison Square Garden: Whatever Gets You Thru The Night, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, and I Saw Her Standing There. What wound up being the former Beatle’s last concert performance, and a career highlight for everyone in the band, was included on the 1995 re-issue of the Here And There CD.

Elton's popularity in the US was staggering at the time; he was in the midst of a flurry of #1 albums and hit singles. During most weeks of the tour, Elton had two songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and three albums on the Top 200. Caribou and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road remained throughout; Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player was replaced by Elton John's Greatest Hits (all four were #1 albums).

Elton and John Lennon at The Record Plant, NYC ahead of the Madison Square Garden show on November 28, 1974. (Photo: Sam Emerson)

Elton and John Lennon at The Record Plant, NYC ahead of the Madison Square Garden show on November 28, 1974. (Photo: Sam Emerson)

(Courtesy of Google Maps)

(Courtesy of Google Maps)

The Elton John Tour of North America - 1974

  1. Convention Center: Dallas, TX
  2. Hofheinz Pavilion (Univ. of Houston): Houston, TX
  3. Municipal Auditorium: Mobile, AL
  4. Denny Stadium (Univ. Of Alabama): Tuscaloosa, AL
  5. Assembly Center (Louisiana State Univ.): Baton Rouge, LA
  6. The Forum: Inglewood, CA [4 shows]
  7. San Diego (CA) Sports Arena
  8. Cow Palace: Daly City, CA
  9. Oakland (CA) Coliseum
  10. Seattle (WA) Center Coliseum [2 shows]
  11. Pacific Coliseum: Vancouver, BC
  12. Portland (OR) Memorial Coliseum
  13. Hawaii International Center Arena: Honolulu, HI [3 shows]
  14. St. Louis (MO) Arena
  15. Saint Paul (MN) Civic Center Arena
  16. Chicago (IL) Stadium: [2 shows]
  17. Athletic & Convocation Center (Notre Dame Univ.): South Bend, IN
  18. Richfield (OH) Coliseum
  19. Greensboro (NC) Coliseum
  20. Stokely Athletic Center (Univ. of Tennessee): Knoxville, TN
  21. The Omni: Atlanta, GA
  22. Civic Arena: Pittsburgh, PA
  23. Olympia Stadium: Detroit, MI [3 shows]
  24. Montreal (QC) Forum
  25. Maple Leaf Gardens: Toronto, ON
  26. Boston (MA) Garden
  27. Capital Centre: Landover, MD [ 2 shows]
  28. New Haven (CT) Coliseum
  29. Boston (MA) Garden
  30. Madison Square Garden: New York, NY [2 shows]
  31. Nassau Coliseum: Uniondale, NY [2 shows]
  32. The Spectrum: Philadelphia, PA [2 shows]
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