When Elton John came to Bangalore

Elton John

It’s not as though I was a great fan of Elton John, but 20 years ago, when I heard he was going to perform in Bangalore, I instantly decided to go for it. That wasn’t a time for online bookings so I had to request my friend Saras Karnad in Bangalore to buy me a ticket. She was aghast to hear the price. Are you sure it’s worth 3500 to watch this man she asked me incredulously? I said I’d know that only if I saw the concert.

On the flight to Bangalore, the disembodied voice of the captain cheerily announced: ‘Enjoy the concert’. It seemed as though the whole of Bombay was going to hear Elton John.
And finally it was the big day. I wore my new shirt and my new shoes ( I know people were going to look at Elton John, not me, but vanity has no logic) and set off for the Palace grounds where the concert was being held.

There was just a grand piano in one corner of the gigantic stage. Nothing else. No backdrop. No mood lighting. I felt a bit let down. After a longish wait Elton John entered from the wings. He was dressed in a hideous suit and his signature glasses. His greeting to the cheering crowd was perfunctory. He looked tiny on the vast stage. But when he reached the grand piano I realized just how tiny he was. He was barely as high as the piano and when he sat down it’s almost as though his chin was on the keyboard.

He launched off into the first song and kept singing without pause and without engaging with the crowd. I began to feel distinctly cheated. Even more so because of the empty stage. I had imagined there would a band on stage, or at least back up vocalists and some dancers. Nothing of the sort. And all of a sudden the concert was over. Elton John got up from his seat and strode out with a curt goodbye. I had never seen a performer with such disregard for the audience.

But worse was to come. The crowd asked for an encore. But there was no sign of John. When he finally came out, he was dressed in a pink tracksuit. He was ready to leave for the airport. He refused to sing an encore. By now there were murmurs of discontent from the crowd. Possibly they were feeling cheated too. We all left in silence.

Till today I wonder at Elton John’s churlish behaviour at the concert. Was it something to do with the organizers or something to do with India? Whatever it may be, from that day onwards I don’t really enjoy listening to his songs any more. Saras was right. It wasn’t worth it.


Photo courtesy: CC-BY 2.0 Elton John During His Farewell Yellow Brick Road World Tour by slgckgc

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Joy Bimal Roy is the son of Bimal Roy (legendary filmmaker) and Manobina Roy (one of India’s pioneer woman photographers). He started his filmmaking stint as an assistant director to Shyam Benegal, and years later, made a biographical documentary, ‘Remembering Bimal Roy,’ which received rave reviews at international film festivals. He has his own designer label, ‘Touch of Joy’. And is presently writing the first of his books on the behind-the-scenes happenings of the Hindi film industry of yore, and designing clothes and interior spaces. He aspires to be a film costume and set designer.

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