Setlist History: On This Day in 1970, Elton John Played His First American Show

On this day, 47 years ago, North America learned how wonderful life is when Elton John is in the world when the British crooner performed his very first show ever on the continent (and outside London at all). Way before he became a rocket man, on August 25th, 1970, just a few months after John had released his landmark eponymous second album (the first of his albums to be released in America, just one month prior), he kicked off a string of six sold out nights at the Troubador in West Hollywood. On that first Tuesday night, the 300-seat club was filled to the brim with fans and music industry greats, including Quincy Jones, Gordon Lightfoot, Mike Love, and Danny Hutton.

John was introduced by none other than Neil Diamond, who professed his own fandom while bringing up the singer-songwriter and his band. “Folks, I’ve never done this before, so please be kind to me,” he said. “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.”

Elton John Setlist 8/25/70

John kicked off the now legendary nine-song set by sitting solo at the piano without any words, and launching straight into his breakout single, “Your Song”, with bassist Dee Murray coming in halfway through. The next song, “Bad Side of the Moon” included the whole band, and was a B-side that didn’t appear on the album. In fact, several of the songs John performed that night didn’t appear on his recently released album. “Country Comfort” and “Burn Down The Mission” were songs from a forthcoming album, Tumbleweed Connection, and “Honkey Tonk Women” was, of course, a Rolling Stones cover. But John was sure to include “Sixty Years On”, “I Need You to Turn To”, and “Border Song” from Elton John, much to the pleasure of his already doting American fans, before closing out by tagging a partial cover of “Get Back” by the Beatles to his last song.

Los Angeles Times Review

The music critic from the Los Angeles times, Robert Hillburn, wrote about that first show, heaping praise on John’s already evident greatness, calling John’s music “staggeringly original.” He also said, “Tuesday night at the Troubadour was just the beginning. He’s going to be one of rock’s biggest and most important stars.”

Later in the six-night run, John would be visited by his idol Leon Russell, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and one Bob Dylan. It wasn’t a long, long time before Elton John was a big, big deal in the US, and since then,with five Grammy awards and over 300 million records sold, the singer has become, as Hillburn predicted, one of the biggest names in music. His gift is his song, all right...

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