It was almost as fun Friday afternoon trying to piece together what Saturday might bring.
It started with some emails about road closures for a “confidential event” on Saturday at the Tower Records building on Sunset Boulevard.
After some phone calls, someone at city hall was generous enough to drop Sir Elton John’s name, who is known to stop by West Hollywood on Oscars weekend. Other than that, those who knew the details did a good job keeping them secret. That night, social media conversations multiplied about a possible performance.
By Saturday morning though, there was no doubt – the city and the rock star announced a free concert in front of the Tower Records building – a longtime favorite destination for the music legend.
Police diverted traffic from Sunset Boulevard, Holloway Drive and Horn Avenue. Thousands were ready for John to play familiar songs from decades ago. Shoulder-to-shoulder, fans packed the parking lot where the stage was set up and flooded out onto the street. Hundreds more hugged the fence going up Horn Avenue, and “sons of bankers and sons of lawyers” were dancing on the roofs of the surrounding buildings.
The crowd sang along as he played classics like “Your Song,” “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer,” plus favorites from his newly released album “Wonderful Crazy Night.”
Then he put the cherry on top. He introduced Lady Gaga, and together they performed “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”
The concert was a thank you to the city for supporting John and the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF).
“The city of West Hollywood has welcomed the Elton John AIDS Foundation and our annual Academy Awards Viewing Party with open arms for many years, providing us with the perfect environment to host a really fun and special evening,” John said in a statement before the concert. “We are profoundly grateful for their generous support, so I wanted to do something special just for them by giving our West Hollywood fans and supporters a surprise concert. Thank you, West Hollywood!”
Cleo Smith, special events manager for West Hollywood, said John’s husband and the chairman of the EJAF, David Furnish, called the city to propose the idea for the concert. They pitched the idea for a pop-up event as a thank-you to the city, and suggested that it be held at Tower Records because that’s where John bought some of his first albums.
With safety in mind, the city agreed to keep the concert under wraps until the day it was to be held.
“His fan base could turn into another Halloween [Carnaval, which draws hundreds of thousands to the city,]” she said.
Smith explained that it was difficult to keep such an exciting event a secret, even in city hall offices, for the two weeks that she knew about it. The event staff alerted residents around the Sunset Strip only that there would be road closures and loud noise on Saturday.
“It was difficult because it was so exciting to work on such a fun event,” she said.
Mayor Lindsey Horvath, whose favorite Elton John song is “Bennie and the Jets,” introduced John and his band, and she said the event was unforgettable.
“It was a real gift from the Elton John AIDS Foundation and Elton John himself to share his voice and his talent with us on the Sunset Strip,” she said.
Horvath also said it was difficult to keep the concert a secret.
“Of course. It was news I wanted to share with everyone,” she said. “But we needed to make sure it was manageable.”
The mayor was excited to meet Lady Gaga, who relayed to her that Elton John had a great time, and that both artists felt the city captured what the music industry was once about.
Horvath said it was a perfect match between John – an LGBT musical icon – and the city.
“You can’t ask for a better day,” she said. “It’s what the Sunset Strip is all about.”
The EJAF hosted its 24th annual Academy Awards Viewing Party on Sunday at West Hollywood Park. Elton John and Furnish hosted the event. The party raised over $6.2 million for the fight against AIDS.
John created EJAF over 24 years ago – first in the United States in 1992 and then in the United Kingdom in 1993.
The two foundations together have raised more than $355 million over the past two decades to combat stigma, prevent infections, provide treatment and services, and motivate governments to end AIDS.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.