Inside Elton John’s Historic Sold-Out Concerts at Dodger Stadium
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On Oct. 25 and 26, 1975, Elton John performed two sold-out shows at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Imagine for a moment what it would be like if one of those was the first rock concert you ever went to. Doug Fox was, indeed, just that lucky:
Hit up any rock fan and you’ll find that almost all of them still proudly wear their first concert like a badge of honor. As the veteran of hundreds of shows over the years, I’m certainly no exception — just fortunate enough to have initially plugged into a lifelong love of live music by attending one of rock’s most historical concerts.
On that day, John performed the second of his back-to-back, career-defining sellout concerts at Dodger Stadium. Unless one actually lived through that time period, it’s almost impossible to imagine just how big a phenomenon John was in 1975. He was littering the rock landscape with hit after hit en route to delivering a couple No. 1 albums per year. His concerts, complete with outrageous costumes and stage antics, were already the stuff of legend.
Similar to the scene in Cameron Crowe’s rock biopic Almost Famous where Frances McDormand’s character nervously drops her young, sheltered son off at his first concert, so I recall my mother, with much trepidation, depositing our group of three off in front of Dodger Stadium — but not before reconfirming that we had enough change in our pockets to call her from a pay phone for a ride home following the show.
After opening sets by Emmylou Harris and the soon-to-be Eagles member Joe Walsh, John took the stage in grand fashion. He opened the show with a soulful solo rendition of “Your Song,” with the opening piano notes preceding the rise of the curtain, and his piano starting at the back left of the stage and slowly moving to the front as the song progressed.
After another solo number, “I Need You to Turn To,” he was joined onstage by his band, which had recently been revamped from his classic lineup. He played a 10-song opening set that featured several album tracks before returning in a sequined Dodger uniform for a hit-laden second set that also heavily highlighted his No. 1 album from five months earlier, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.
There were special appearances by tennis star Billie Jean King (she sang backing vocals for “Philadelphia Freedom”) and John’s partner-in-rhyme, lyricist Bernie Taupin, and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” seemed perfectly timed with the sunset outside the stadium on that typically beautiful Southern California Sunday.
John ended up playing 31 songs in a three-hour-plus performance that spoiled me for years, naively assuming, as I did, that every artist must play for a similar length of time on such a grand scale. Obviously, that wide-eyed 15-year-old still had a lot to learn in the way of concerts. In the subsequent decades, I’ve had the opportunity to interview a couple members of John’s core band and see him in concert seven additional times — but somehow none quite compare with that afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
Maybe it’s a first-time thing.
Take a look at Fox’s original account of the show and see his handwritten set list.
Elton John Dodger Stadium Oct. 26, 1975, Set List:
“I Need You to Turn To”
“Take Me to the Pilot”
“Funeral For a Friend”
“Love Lies Bleeding”
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
“Bennie and the Jets”
“Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy”
“Someone Saved My Life Tonight”
“The Bitch is Back”
“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”
“Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”
“I Saw Her Standing There”
“We All Fall in Love Sometimes”
“Tell Me When the Whistle Blows”
“Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”
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