It’s a balmy Sunday evening on the last night of Glastonbury‘s 2023 edition and the most casual of observers would be forgiven for thinking that Worthy Farm has transformed itself into an Elton John clone factory. Across the site, festival-goers are decked out in sequinned knock-offs of the legendary singer’s iconic Dodgers Baseball outfit, feather boas and oversized sunglasses befitting of the man himself.
The scene is testament to the excitement for Elton’s Glastonbury debut and, to add to the scale of the occasion, what might just be his last ever show in the UK. It means that by the time he arrives on the Pyramid Stage at 9PM, the area has attracted one of the festival’s biggest ever crowds, with thousands winding to the very top of the hill that the Rocketman will look out at from behind his piano.
Over two incredible hours, Elton duly repays their faith. In what is easily the best headline set of the weekend, he delivers a spectacular career-spanning set that reminds thousands of why he’s one of British music’s true greats. If this really is his last gig, then he couldn’t have delivered a more beautiful goodbye.
He kicks off with ‘Pinball Wizard’, which marks the first time he’s played his take on The Who’s track in just under a decade. It’s the perfect opener, a hard rock classic that ignites the thousands into a dancing frenzy, but also a chance to throw in a bit of a curveball to please the devoted fans attending at Worthy Farm and the millions more watching from home.
It’s not the only curveball of the night. Elton previously confirmed that the set would take in special guests, leading to wild rumours that the likes of Britney Spears and Dolly Parton could be set to join him – with the speculation going so far as to claim that Spears had been spotted at nearby Bristol Airport.
While those names don’t surface, the guests instead reflect Elton’s admirable reputation for championing new talent, despite being at an age when he could easily put his feet up at his palatial Windsor home and ignore the new brigade. This means a showcase of Gabriels frontman Jacob Lusk’s soul-soaked vocals on ‘Are You Ready For Love’, a chance for American newcomer Stephen Sanchez to perform his TikTok smash ‘Until I Found You’ and Rina Sawayama assuming the role of Kiki Dee on ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’. For those desiring a big name, The Killers’ Brandon Flowers arrives to perform a powerful duet on ‘Tiny Dancer’.
Curiously, there is no Dua Lipa to join him on their medley collab ‘Cold Heart’, with the singer seemingly preoccupied by cooking for her family, according to her own social media posts. You sense in Elton’s voice that he’s somewhat disappointed by her absence. You just hope that the burrata she prepared was better than the chance to take part in an icon’s Glastonbury Farewell.
Ultimately though, the guests are a mere side spectacle. As the huge reaction of the crowd reminds him, this is a night all about Elton – and a late section sees him firing through his powerful hits at a thrilling pace that barely gives the crowd a chance to come up for air. The pop-rock groove of ‘Crocodile Rock?’ goes straight into the frenetic thrills of ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’, before ‘I’m Still Standing’ arrives and completes one hell of a musical hat-trick.
There is epic balladry in ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ too and a dediction to the late George Michael on his 60th birthday before things draw to a close with ‘Rocketman’. As the song kicks off, a sea fireworks light up the Glastonbury sky and provide a powerful end to one of the all-time great headline sets down on Worthy Farm.
If this truly is the end of Elton’s performing days, then he’s going out on an almighty high. But his voice – seemingly unaffected by the ravishes of time – and unparalleled talent, are still shining as bright as ever. On the basis of tonight’s show, it’s high time to hope for one more trip on the yellow brick road.