Just as Bohemian Rhapsody introduced Freddy Mercury to an unsuspecting generation of young fans, last year’s Elton John biopic, Rocketman, has netted its subject a host of fresh admirers.
John’s newest fans were born into a far different world than the one that was astounded when he declared, in a 1976 interview with Rolling Stone, that he was bisexual.
Now a knight (the first openly gay musician to be so anointed), Sir Elton is using his enormous public platform to encourage youth who may be struggling with their sexuality or gender identity and to end the global AIDS epidemic.
To date, the Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised over $450,000,000 to support HIV-related programs in fifty-five countries, and is now doubling down with coronavirus relief efforts for the population it has long served.
To that end, Sir Elton is revisiting six of his most iconic performances over the last half-century, posting a concert in its entirety to his Youtube channel every week in hope that viewers will be moved to make a donation at concert’s end.
(As further incentive, an anonymous supporter has pledged to match donations up to $250,000.)
Each concert streams for 72 hours, but clips of individual songs linger longer.
Last week the Classic Concert Series turned the dial back 30 years to find Sir Elton playing a 1st-century Roman amphitheater—Italy’s Arena di Verona—as part of his 130-show Reg Strikes Back tour. His interplay with singers Mortonette Jenkins, Marlena Jeter, and Kudisan Kai during an 8‑minute gospel-tinged spin on “Sad Songs (Say So Much),” above, is a highlight of the 22-song set.
The series kicked off at the Playhouse Theater in Edinburgh in 1976 as “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” was topping the charts, and continues to the Sydney Entertainment Center ten years further on, when Sir Elton defied doctor’s orders, performing despite vocal nodules.
On July 24, John takes us along to Rio’s Estadio Do Flamengo when the release of 1995’s Made In England prompted his first ever tour of Brazil.
The following week, we’ll enter the 21st-century with a pitstop at Madison Square Garden before the series comes to a close at the Great Amphitheater in Ephesus, Turkey.
Watch Elton John’s Classic Concert Series on his Youtube channel, and even though it’s not obligatory, seek out the blue donation button that appears on every post. You can also make a tax deductible donation via the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s website.