Elton John - Tower Festival Headland, Blackpool
With the weather forecast being what it was, nobody actually expected the sun to go down on Elton John’s long awaited return to Blackpool but few people could have predicted the wind and rain which caused the Tower Festival Headland’s debut concert to be abandoned for safety’s sake.
Converting a chunk of Central Promenade into Sir Elton’s very own Yellow Brick Road seemed like such a good idea at the time – but after almost two hours of mostly platinum hits and, ironically so soon after performing Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word, the superstar had to apologise, pull the plugs and beat a hasty retreat.
Things had started so well. For such a massive debut things had run surprisingly smoothly. Seats were found, staff were helpful, the sound system was superb and, clad in a motley collection of plastic ponchos and black bin liners the audience greeted his opening number – fittingly Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting – with a standing ovation.
They’d already warmed to the support act, Croatian duo 2Cellos who put the classics into classic pop with their instrumental renditions of numbers by Nirvana, U2 and Michael Jackson before segueing seamlessly into being part of the headliner’s band – which thankfully included long time sidemen Nigel Olsson on drums and Davey Johnstone on guitar.
Sir Elton himself was in good spirits. Any doubts that his recent flu might have affected his performance or that his less than dynamic Diamond Jubilee appearance might be the shape of things to come were instantly dismissed.
The 65-year-old was full of smiles, bowed more times than a geisha girl on overtime and seemed genuinely pleased to be back in Blackpool – even if he did think he last performed here in 1977 when, in fact, it was 1982 for two nights at the Opera House.
He even playfully tugged at his forelock indicating not even the increasingly gusty conditions were going to send it on its way to the Isle of Man.
Although a man of few words he did manage: “Good evening Blackpool – I can’t see one bikini out there. I wonder why.”
But he could see an ocean of friendly faces singing along to almost every song. Some were first timers, some were veterans (notably Longton man Richard Stevenson notching up 100 concerts) and at least one was even a lookalike.
This was basically a greatest hits collection and that’s just what people wanted – heaven knows he’s got enough of them. From the rocking Rocket Man (which got the best reception of the night) and Benny and the Jets to the more emotional Candle in the Wind (dropped discreetly into the set with no attempt to capitalise on sentimentality) the hits kept on rolling out.
Almost miraculously the rain kept away for almost two hours before at 8.55pm – with the wind doing its own rocking and rolling of the stage, the concert was called off.
“I’ll make it up you and I’ll come back again,” said a clearly upset Sir Elton.
Sorry was indeed the hardest word after all.