Elton John Delivers Perfect Farewell at Glastonbury

It was a balmy Sunday evening on the last night of Glastonbury‘s 2023 edition and the most casual of observers would’ve been forgiven for thinking that Worthy Farm had transformed itself into an Elton John clone factory. Across the site, festival-goers were decked out in sequined knock-offs of the legendary singer’s iconic Dodgers Baseball outfit, feather boas, and oversized sunglasses befitting of the man himself.

The scene was testament to the excitement for John’s Glastonbury debut and, to add to the scale of the occasion, what might just be his last-ever show in the U.K. It meant that by the time he arrived on the Pyramid Stage at 9 p.m., the area had attracted one of the festival’s biggest crowds ever, with thousands winding to the very top of the hill that the Rocketman looked out at from behind his piano.

Over two incredible hours, John duly repaid their faith. In what was easily the best headline set of the weekend, he delivered a spectacular career-spanning set that reminded thousands of why he’s one of British music’s true greats. If this really is his last gig, then he couldn’t have delivered a more beautiful goodbye.

He kicked off with “Pinball Wizard,” which marked the first time he has played his take on the Who’s track in just under a decade. It was the perfect opener, a hard rock classic that ignited the thousands into a dancing frenzy, but was also a chance to throw in a bit of a curveball to please the devoted fans attending at Worthy Farm and the millions more watching around the globe.

It was not the only curveball of the night. John previously confirmed that the set would take in special guests, leading to wild rumors that the likes of Britney Spears and Dolly Parton could be set to join him — with the speculation going so far as to claim that Spears had been spotted at nearby Bristol Airport.

While Spears and Parton did not surface, the guests instead reflected John’s admirable reputation for championing new talent, despite being at an age when he could easily put his feet up at his palatial Windsor home and ignore the new brigade. This meant a showcase of Gabriels frontman Jacob Lusk’s soul-soaked vocals on “Are You Ready for Love,” a chance for American newcomer Stephen Sanchez to perform his TikTok smash “Until I Found You,” and Rina Sawayama assuming the role of Kiki Dee on “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” For those desiring a big name, the Killers’ Brandon Flowers arrived to perform a powerful duet on “Tiny Dancer.”

Curiously, there was no Dua Lipa to join him on their medley collab “Cold Heart,” with the singer seemingly preoccupied by cooking for her family, according to her own social media posts. There was a sense in John’s voice that he was somewhat disappointed by her absence. Let’s hope that the burrata she prepared was better than the chance to take part in an icon’s Glastonbury Farewell.

Ultimately though, the guests were a mere side spectacle. As the huge reaction of the crowd reminded him, this was a night all about John — and a late section saw him firing through his powerful hits at a thrilling pace that barely gave the crowd a chance to come up for air. The pop-rock groove of “Crocodile Rock” went straight into the frenetic thrills of “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting),” before “I’m Still Standing” arrived to complete one hell of a musical hat-trick.


There was epic balladry in “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” too, before things drew to a close with “Rocket Man” as soaring fireworks lit up the Glastonbury sky. It was the perfect end to one of the all-time great headline sets down on Worthy Farm. If this truly was the end of John’s performing days in the U.K., then he’s going out on an almighty high. But his voice, seemingly unaffected by the ravishes of time, and unparalleled talent, are still shining as bright as ever. On the basis of tonight’s show, here’s hoping for one final trip on the yellow brick road.

From Rolling Stone UK. Subscribe to the magazine in print and receive complimentary access to the digital edition.