Elton John gave the final concert at Britain’s legendary Glastonbury Festival on Sunday, bringing down the curtain on the annual spectacular with what could be his final U.K. performance.
“I never thought I’d ever play Glastonbury,” he told the crowd. “It’s a very special and emotional night for me — it might be my very last show in England, in Great Britain, so I’d better play well and entertain you.”
The 76-year-old pop superstar is winding down a glittering live career with a global farewell tour, having played his last concerts in the United States in May ahead of a final gig in Stockholm on July 8.
Glastonbury, Britain’s best-known music festival, has been hosted on a farm in southwest England for five decades.
Before John took to the main Pyramid Stage on Sunday night, anticipation was high among fans.
“Elton’s a legend,” Ph.D. student Giles Briscoe, 26, told AFP ahead of the set, wearing a replica of the iconic baseball outfit John wore at his famous 1975 concerts at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. “The fact that he’s going to perform on such a big stage, at such a historic moment of his career, is such a big event.”
John did not disappoint, kicking the show off with “Pinball Wizard” — a role he memorably played in The Who’s rock opera “Tommy” — before reeling through some of his biggest hits, including “Candle in the Wind,” “Crocodile Rock” and an intense “I’m Still Standing.”
John dedicated “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” to his “friend” and “inspiration” George Michael, who died on Christmas Day in 2016, and who would have turned 60 on Sunday.
John’s husband, David Furnish, had told Sky News ahead of the concert that John would not stop making music after the farewell tour ends next month and would start work on a new studio album later this year.
He also teased Sunday’s performance, saying it would be “very special” and “not just another day in the office.”
Indeed, John was joined on stage by several surprise guests: first off, the London Community Gospel Choir and Jacob Lusk of the soul-pop group Gabriels.
Next up was Stephen Sanchez, with John singing one of the 20-year-old American’s songs.
He later shared the stage with Brandon Flowers of The Killers for “Tiny Dancer” and with Rina Sawayama for “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
He closed out the set with a soaring rendition of “Rocket Man,” complete with fireworks.
During the concert, John thanked his fans “for 52 years of amazing love and loyalty.”
“It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve had the best, best time. I will never forget you — you are in my head, my heart and my soul,” he said.
John’s U.K. swansong caps days of big-name performances in front of more than 200,000 fans at Glastonbury, including veteran U.S. rockers Guns N’ Roses, who were making their debut at the long-running festival in the coveted Saturday night headline slot.
They rocked through their extensive catalogue during a two-hour-plus set, playing hits including “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “November Rain.”
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, whose band played a so-called secret slot Friday, joined them onstage to help play a special rendition of “Paradise City.”
Other acts playing this year included UK indie giants Arctic Monkeys, singer Lizzo, rapper Lil Nas X, post-punk icon Blondie and “rickroller” Rick Astley, highlighting Glastonbury’s eclectic ethos.
On Saturday, a supportive crowd sang along as Scottish singer Lewis Capaldi, who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, struggled to finish his set.
He announced he would take a break, after previously cancelling gigs to recuperate over health concerns.
Dairy farmer Michael Eavis first organized the festival in 1970, the day after Jimi Hendrix died, and fans who came to see acts including Marc Bolan and Al Stewart paid £1 each for entry and received free milk from the farm.
It was held intermittently in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that it really began to acquire its cult status.
While able to draw the biggest performers from every genre and generation, it is equally known for hosting thousands of small acts and events across the huge Worthy Farm site, as well as for often rainy and muddy conditions.
That has not proved a problem this year, with Britain in the midst of a prolonged dry period leaving much of the country scorched.
More than 100,000 standard tickets for this year’s festival sold out in just over an hour, despite the price rising to $427 this year.