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Elton John’s historic Glasto set smashes records

"I never thought I'd play Glastonbury – and here I am. I'm so happy to be here. I won't ever forget this," John told the crowd

By Lisa Henderson on 26 Jun 2023

Elton John performing at Glastonbury 2023

Elton John performing at Glastonbury 2023

Elton John looks to have smashed attendance and viewership records for the last UK show of his farewell tour at Glastonbury.

The 76-year-old legend delivered a two-hour set packed with hits from across his five-decades-long career, including ‘Pinball Wizard’ which he hadn’t performed in over a decade.

Early estimates had the Sunday night performance as one of the most-attended of all time – possibly eclipsing Dolly Parton in 2014 – with at least 120,000 in the audience.

Meanwhile, 7.6 million tuned in to watch live on BBC One – the biggest-ever overnight audience for a Glastonbury set.

In comparison, in 2022 Diana Ross was the most-watched star with 3.1m and Paul McCartney’s headline set was seen by 2.7m.

“I never thought I’d play Glastonbury – and here I am,” he said. “I’m so happy to be here. I won’t ever forget this. It’s a very special and emotional night for me as it may be my last show in England, in Great Britain. I’d better play well and I’d better entertain you because you’ve been standing there so long.”

7.6 million tuned in to watch live on BBC One – the biggest-ever overnight audience for a Glastonbury set

The 21-song set included hits such as ‘The Bitch Is Back’, ‘Bennie and the Jet’ and ‘I’m Still Standing,’ as well as a number of guest appearances.

Jacob Lusk of US soul group Gabriels accompanied John on ‘Are You Ready For Love’, Rina Sawayama took Kiki Dee’s place on ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ and The Killers’ Brandon Flowers appeared for ‘Tiny Dancer’. Nashville’s Stephen Sanchez even got to sing a song of his own, ‘Until I Found You’.

John drew the curtain on his UK touring career with an extended version of ‘Rocket Man’. “It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve had the best, best time,” said the star, with a lump in his throat.

The show came toward the end of Elton’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour – now officially the highest-grossing tour of all time, with box office receipts of $887m (£697m).

After Glastonbury, there are just seven dates left, with the final show in Stockholm on 8 July.

John’s performance drew the 2023 Glastonbury festival to a close, after high-profile sets from Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses, Lana Del Rey, WizKid, Lizzo, Blondie and Cat Stevens.

Friday’s headliner Arctic Monkeys saw a record performance for a Friday night headline set with a peak audience of 2.6m, while audiences for Saturday’s headliner Guns N’ Roses on BBC Two peaked at 2.1m.

Lewis Capaldi’s and Lizzo’s Pyramid Stage performances on Saturday had a BBC One audience peak 2.4m.

Organiser Emily Eavis has confirmed the event will return next year, with two female headliners already booked.

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