Review: Elton John, Westmorland County Showground

Elton John
Elton John

As a child of the 80s and 90s I’ve always been aware of the celebrity exploits of Sir Elton John.

An exuberent, flamboyant character with a unique fashion sense and a string of hits that my mum knew all the words to.

Proudly “out”, endeared to the Royal family, and singularly himself, here was a national treasure in the making - his 300 millions records sold now putting him into the category of “one of the world’s best”.

With John performing live for the first time in South Lakeland, this much talked about gig at Westmorland County Show Ground, Crooklands, surely surprised and delighted fans from the locality that for once didn’t have to use the motorway to watch a living legend perform.

There was a festival feeling at the beginning of the show on Sunday night, and although overcast and unseasonably cold, there were smiles aplenty from this extremely well behaved, and excited, audience.

The Showground is an unusual venue, retaining an 80s football terrace feel, and surrounded by the south Lakeland hills.

I put the capacity at around 3-4,000 and there were a few empty seats around.

John started promptly at 7pm, his blue sequinned longcoat sparkling on the stage as he and the band, which included drummer and vocalist Nigel Olsson – who has been with the singer since the 1970s – launched into their set.

It was a confident start, and had loyal fans up on their feet swaying their arms, swinging their hips and clapping and hollering from the off.

I couldn’t give you the name of all John’s albums, or which songs come from which part of his 48 year musical career, but what I realised was just how much of a hit maker this man is.

Benny and the Jets thumping piano intro set the audience off, as did an unexpectedly early rendition of Candle in the Wind.

Then they just kept coming for a solid two and a half hours.

In no particular order, Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, I’m Still Standing, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, Your Song, Sacrifice - turned a seated, slightly shivering crowd into a big Cumbrian party.

As a performer, John was pretty relaxed, possibly even a bit weary. He made only the occasional sweep of the stage for a bow, and was mostly seated for the duration. There weren’t any expletives or telling off of security staff on this occasion.

But his set was pretty heavy on the rock n’ roll, with the ballads breaking things up nicely and providing some great singalong moments.

He was humble and thanked the audience for their support over the years, telling stories of the origins of some of his songs, and marvelling at the venue’s stunning surroundings, his view including Farleton Fell.

The 68-year-old also alluded to this perhaps being one of his last shows, so there was even more cause for celebration, and I don’t mean that in a negative way.

All in all this was a really good show, and it would be great to see Westmorland County Show Ground being used for similar events in the future.