Elton John Brings The Curtain Down On Glastonbury 2023 And His Career With Joyous Elegance

From the moment Elton John announced he would be playing Glastonbury Festival for the first (and last) time, closing out the 2023 festival with a Sunday Night Pyramid Stage headline set back in December 2022, everything about this year’s edition of the 50+ year-running music and contemporary performing arts festival had been building up to that moment. The moment Sir Elton stepped out onto the Pyramid stage and played his first note, and the two magical hours that followed.

Elton John @ Glastonbury Festival 2023

Elton John @ Glastonbury Festival 2023 (Kalpesh Patel)
Elton John @ Glastonbury Festival 2023 (Kalpesh Patel)

As the months ticked down, the legend announced that the set would also be his last UK show, his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” farewell tour continuing in the weeks after in Europe. But this would be it for his home country. And as revellers arrived on site at Worthy Farm, regardless of the monster acts that would play before (and elsewhere during) John’s set, this was the moment most were looking forward to. And as the day finally arrived, sparkling outfits and L.A. Dodgers outfits were donned and those keenest to secure the best view waited in the Pyramid field (one super fan, since 4am!). Sophie Ellis-Bextor, The Chicks, Yusuf / Cat Stevens, Blondie and Lil Nas X all played the stage, but the field was packed out with an estimated 120,000 festival goers (out of around 220,000 in total) just before 9pm, as the sun went down and “standing room only” was announced over the PA.

Elton John @ Glastonbury Festival 2023

Elton John fan @ Glastonbury Festival 2023 (Kalpesh Patel)
Elton John fan @ Glastonbury Festival 2023 (Kalpesh Patel)

Appearing on stage in a flamboyant, shiny gold suit and signature sunglasses to the loudest roar from the crowd of the whole weekend, John settled behind his Yamaha grand piano and kicked off with his rendition of The Who’s 1969 classing Pinball Wizard, fireworks being set off on either side of the Pyramid stage as his six-strong band of musicians filled out the sound.

Honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered what he played tonight, as long as his biggest hits were present. The mood was simply joyful, from the very front on the barrier in front of the stage to beyond the back of the field where revellers hung around to catch a glimpse of the magic, and even from those VIPs lucky enough to hang out overlooking the stage (including the likes of F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and Beatles legend Paul McCartney). Two hours of pure joy followed.

Now 76 and largely limited to a seated position behind his piano, nothing is taken away from the enchantment he casts across those here in person, or the millions watching via the live television broadcast. He’s a legend, a national treasure and the composer of some of the finest contemporary music created over the past 50+ years. Bennie And The Jets, Daniel, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues … the classics keep flowing, one after another, after another. Delivered with vigour and a showmanship that is second to none.

Rather than simply bringing on big-name celebrity musical guests for this special event, John chooses instead to champion newer artists, giving them the biggest audiences of their lives. First up is Gabriels’ frontman Jacob Lusk, who joins John for a rendition of Thom Bell Sessions EP cut Are You Ready For Love, while 20-year-old Nashville-based Stephen Sanchez appears for an outing of his own tune Until I Found You. “I couldn’t believe that someone of 19 or 20 years of age could write and sing a song like this, it was a nod to the past but it sounded so beautiful and fresh” John introduced.

Elton John @ Glastonbury Festival 2023

Jacob Lusk of Gabriels @ Glastonbury Festival 2023 (Kalpesh Patel)
Jacob Lusk of Gabriels @ Glastonbury Festival 2023 (Kalpesh Patel)

More hits by way of Your Song and tear-inducing Candle In The Wind (played by John solo) follow before the star introduces the biggest guest star of his show tonight, Las Vegas rockers The Killers’ frontman Brandon Flowers (donning a smart double-breasted red suit), for a rendition of hit single Tiny Dancer. His last special guest appears next – Japanese-British rising star Rina Sawayama – for an outing of 1976 hit single Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Sawayama filling in perfectly for the original’s Kiki Dee.

Elton John @ Glastonbury Festival 2023

Elton John & Rina Sawayama @ Glastonbury Festival 2023 (Kalpesh Patel)
Elton John & Rina Sawayama @ Glastonbury Festival 2023 (Kalpesh Patel)

Crocodile Rock ups the tempo, Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting has the crowd chanting along (and covered in yellow ticker tape fired by cannons in front of the stage) while I’m Still Standing continues John’s barrage of hits from his incredible career upon this Glastonbury crowd. 2021 dance tune Cold Heart (reminiscent of missing hit single Sacrifice) is the one miss tonight, the ominous lack of collaborator Dua Lipa’s presence leaving John to perform the tune to a backing track of her parts, “I’m going to ask you to sing her part and sing it loudly” John requests – the Anglo-Albanian singer later stating that she was busy hosting a dinner party on the night of Elton John’s Glastonbury headline set.

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me is dedicated to George Michael’s memory on what would have been his 60th birthday, the song given a second lease of life following Michael releasing a live version in 1991, itself featuring a guest appearance from Elton John. But it is John’s biggest, and most famous hit Rocket Man that closes out the fast-paced two-hour set of incredible music, fireworks firing beautifully above Worthy Farm (and flares igniting from within the crowd) as the 1972 hit single rings out.

The night was a lesson in just how to close out an incredible career in graceful style. It was also fabulous use of such an incredible platform to champion so many rising stars, giving them each the type of exposure simply not achievable by any other means, such a graceful gesture by a British musical legend. A Glastonbury Festival Pyramid Stage headline set that will surely go down in history as one of the greatest.

  • 53018068004 fd4a2781e6 o
  • 53018387193 7bb4b5223f o
  • 53018067804 7bb1d00c7c o
  • 53018067809 1f5daf7b29 o
  • 53018387473 5da1e56376 o
  • 53018067864 b1444a277a o
  • 53018387043 1cde7a3560 o
  • 53018291225 0d75ea05bf o
  • 53018387338 c7094524cf o
  • 53017322052 e856e14560 o
  • 53018387323 ee97a90c5c o
  • 53017904631 b91157127c o
  • 53017904926 ecdd31dacf o
  • 53017322077 88e32418c4 o
  • 53017904486 ed7d70192b o
  • 53017322377 d6fded27ba o
  • 53018291685 48a033ae3d o
  • 53018068279 c2c2274b6a o
  • 53017904696 650e65e020 o
  • 53018291170 b544959d13 o
  • 53018068004 16cb66fd0d n
  • 53018387193 92fd823c05 n
  • 53018067804 b517850426 n
  • 53018067809 9a5504b4d2 n
  • 53018387473 2a04dc7613 n
  • 53018067864 47706c9017 n
  • 53018387043 e63a2a05b0 n
  • 53018291225 6b85e5e7ae n
  • 53018387338 72cc4e9d30 n
  • 53017322052 31024ac637 n
  • 53018387323 623e593b7a n
  • 53017904631 f8e252aa86 n
  • 53017904926 ebec3245dd n
  • 53017322077 b638d33818 n
  • 53017904486 c7821d0562 n
  • 53017322377 0742a452cf n
  • 53018291685 6b2bacd5a0 n
  • 53018068279 287de9271d n
  • 53017904696 7b32ae8fee n
  • 53018291170 e5e9b41e18 n

Words and photos by Kalpesh Patel at Glastonbury Festival 2023.

Guns N’ Roses Bring The Energy And The Hits To Glastonbury 2023

One Step Closer (Spencer Chamberlain)

Hardcore Outfit One Step Closer Drop Orange Leaf

One Step Closer are gearing up for their highly anticipated new full-length, All You Embrace, and in the build-up to...
Glasto 2024 Avalon expanded scaled

Glastonbury Festival’s Field Of Avalon Announces 2024 Line-Up

The full stage announcements are coming in thick and fast as the Glastonbury Festival 2024 ticket resales approach...
The Hives @ Hammersmith Apollo, London (Pauline Di Silvestro)

The Hives Are As Ferocious As Ever At The Hammersmith Apollo

It’s the first real day of spring in London, and crowds seem to flock in thousands to Hammersmith station, sharply...
Glasto 2024 Acoustic

Glastonbury Festival Announces Full Acoustic Stage Line-Up For 2024

Following the first line-up announcement for Glastonbury Festival 2024 dropping less than one month back and...
Eloise Viola (Press)

Eloise Viola Explores Debut Album Glasshouse With Latest Single Lifetime

Eloise Viola has released her brand new single Lifetime, the latest song to be taken from her forthcoming debut...
OhGunquitLex 32 scaled

Oh! Gunquit Searing Garage Rock Rampage At The Lexington

Oh! Gunquit played a sold out show at The Lexington, a full on blast of sleazy garage rock.

China Bears (Press)

China Bears Find Their North Star

Rising indie four-piece China Bears have released their anthemic new single North Star. The rousing, yet melodious...
John Linger of Girls In Synthesis @ Brixton Academy (Kalpesh Patel)

Girls In Synthesis Tease More Sublimation With Deceit

After two critically acclaimed albums – 2020’s Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future and 2022’s The Rest Is Distraction...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share Thing