Sunday night's all right for Capt. Fantastic's 60th birthday bash

David Hinckley
New York Daily News (MCT)

NEW YORK -- Elton John started planning years ago for Sunday night's party at Madison Square Garden, where he'll celebrate his 60th birthday with 20,000 of his closest friends.

Two years ago, Madison Square Garden entertainment president Jay Marciano recalls, he got a call from Howard Rose, John's agent, asking if the Garden could hold March 25, 2007 -- John's 60th birthday.

"I remember laughing and saying I wasn't even sure I had a 2007 calendar yet," says Marciano. "But I told him that of course Elton could have it."

The world's most famous arena and its single most successful concert artist have been rolling down the yellow brick road together for a long time.

John's first Garden show was on Sept. 23, 1973, when his current radio hit was "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and Richard Nixon was president.

His show Sunday night will be his 60th. That's eight more than the second-place Grateful Dead and 13 more than Billy Joel, a friend with whom John has several times shared the Garden stage.

Sixty shows also adds up to more than a million tickets.

To mark this milestone Sunday night, the Garden will unveil a commemorative banner in the rafters. The show will also be filmed for, among other things, a two-hour special scheduled April 5 on MyNetworkTV.

"It will be a unique night," says Marciano. "There will be a number of surprises, not all of which Elton has shared even with us."

With resellers asking $1,000 or more for floor seats, fans are clearly counting on something to remember. That's likely to include everything from famous guests to a push for John's long-running anti-bigotry campaigns.

A near-certainty is that the show should be visually memorable, because John took his sense of spectacle directly from his first rock `n' roll idol, Little Richard.

For his 50th birthday, John threw a Louis XIV theme party, for which his costume alone -- featuring ostrich feathers in the train -- cost $80,000.

His stage outfits over the years have included a gorilla suit and a Donald Duck outfit.

But that's not the main reason he could sell out another half dozen Garden shows next week.

"How many artists can do a three-hour show where the crowd knows every song?" says Marciano. "That's what you get with Elton."

Independent concert industry analyst Bob Grossweiner also says it comes down to music.

"Few artists have had his musical longevity or his sustained output," says Grossweiner. "You could argue the quality has decreased, but he still puts out good songs.

"So even though radio isn't that friendly to him anymore, he's still a big concert draw."

Grossweiner calls it an "honor" for New York that John is doing his birthday show here. Marciano says the Garden just has that kind of aura.

"For many artists, playing the Garden is the pinnacle of their career," he says. "It's the biggest stage there is. No one phones it in here. The crowds are great and they expect something great.

"Elton has always said it's one of his favorite places."

Grossweiner notes that for John's first public shows in New York, Nov. 20-21, 1970, at the Fillmore East, he was third-billed behind Leon Russell and McKendree Spring.

"Whatever you think of his music," says Grossweiner, "he's come a long way."



It isn't an Elton John extravaganza unless you're in fancy dress. The sexagenarian singer loves an elaborate costume bash, and Saturday night's soiree here in New York -- preceding his concert on Sunday -- promises nothing less.

Details are closely guarded about the A-list party, but looking back at past events may reveal a few clues. Wigs have always been a personal fave of the singer. He and husband David Furnish channeled Marie Antoinette and Louis XIV at a decadent 50th birthday party 10 years ago.

Last Tuesday night in London, Elton had guests dress in outfits from the 1940s to celebrate the big 6-0. Let's hope he steps back in time again this weekend. Seventies disco, anyone?

-- Jo Piazza





Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.


Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.