The Day Elton John Played His First U.S. Concert
Elton John's U.S. debut on Aug. 25, 1970 at the Troubadour in West Hollywood couldn't be confused with a low-key affair.
True, it was a Tuesday – not usually the busiest of evenings at a nightclub – and just weeks after the arrival of John's eponymous album, his introduction to stateside listeners. But Elton John was already changing the profile of its flamboyant namesake. Troubadour owner Doug Weston is said to have immediately booked the pianist after hearing the LP; this kicked off a six-night sold-out run.
By the time the singer-songwriter sat down at the piano alongside bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson, the stage was set for his looming coronation. The crowd that evening was dotted with movers, shakers and huge stars – including Quincy Jones, Leon Russell, the Beach Boys' Mike Love, Gordon Lightfoot and others.
John was introduced by a clearly starstruck Neil Diamond. “Folks, I’ve never done this before, so please be kind to me," Diamond said that night. "I’m like the rest of you. I’m here because [I've] listened to Elton John’s album. So I’m going to take my seat with you now and enjoy the show.”
John opened with "Your Song," his breakthrough single, then continued through a set that also included "Sixty Years On," "Border Song," "Take Me to the Pilot," "Country Comfort" and "Burn Down the Mission." The latter two songs wouldn't arrive in stores until October's Tumbleweed Connection. "Bad Side of the Moon," also part of his show, had only appeared as the B-side to the "Border Song" single. He covered the Rolling Stones and Beatles too.
Critics, including the Los Angeles Times' Robert Hilburn, hailed John's arrival – not just in America, but as a new force on the music scene. “Tuesday night at the Troubadour was just the beginning," Hilburn wrote. "He’s going to be one of rock’s biggest and most important stars.”
John must have had some inkling, too. He is said to have turned down the opportunity to make this celebrated debut as part of a package with Jeff Beck, after the former demanded 90 percent of the earnings.