British pop singer Elton John celebrated his 60th birthday at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. During the event John recalled the late Beatle John Lennon and upped his own record for most appearances at Madison Square Garden in New York.
John wore rose-tinted glasses and a black tail coat as he sat at his piano and played more than 30 of his hit songs from his four decade career. He was introduced by former U.S. President Bill Clinton before opening with “Sixty Years On.”
John told the Madison Square Garden crowd, which included his lyricist partner Bernie Taupin, that the venue was the obvious choice for his 60th birthday. It was John’s record-breaking 60th concert at the storied arena.
“I knew I had 59 shows here and I said the only place I wanted to be was in New York City at Madison Square Garden ,” he said.
He talked about two memorable past performances at the arena. First, playing after the September 11 attacks, and also the November, 1974 performance where John Lennon joined him on stage. It turned out to be Lennon’s last concert appearance.
“I have never heard a reception for anyone like that in my life,” he said, saying how he still mourned Lennon’s death.
“It’s too upsetting for me to sing it anywhere else,” he told the crowd before singing “Empty Garden,” with the lyrics “Oh hey, hey, Johnny can’t you come out to play?”
Taupin joined comedians Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg on stage to sing “Happy Birthday” to John. Taupin told the audience “there is nobody I have more respect and love for than him.”
John also said that without Taupin, “we wouldn’t be here tonight, because the words have always come first.”
John also played such hit songs as “Honky Cat,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Rocket Man,” “Sad Songs Say So Much,” and “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,” with the crowd singing along.
John didn’t wear any of the outrageous costumes and wigs that he’s been known for.
Elton John, who was born Reginald Dwight, has been outspoken recently against homophobia following his December 2005 civil partnership ceremony with David Furnish. He dedicated “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” to Furnish.
The concert, which lasted three hours, ended with “Your Song.” “Your Song” was John’s first hit single, beginning a career that eventually sold more than 200 million albums worldwide.