Elton John says he’s played in some beautiful venues, but the stage in front of the White House, beneath a massive tent on a perfect autumn night, was “probably the icing on the cake.”
US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden on Friday welcomed the 75-year-old singer, talking about his activism, the power of his music and his all-around goodness.
“Seamus Heaney once wrote, and I quote, ‘Once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme,” Biden said.
“Throughout his incredible career, Sir Elton John has been that tidal wave, a tidal wave to help people rise up and make hope and history rhyme.”
John kicked off the show with Your Song, his first big international hit.
The 2000-person guest list included teachers, nurses, frontline workers and LGBTQI advocates, plus former first lady Laura Bush, civil rights advocate Ruby Bridges, education activist Malala Yousafzai and Jeanne White-Ginder, an AIDS activist and mother of Ryan White, who died from AIDS-related complications in 1990.
The night, in fact, was called “A Night When Hope And History Rhyme,” a reference to the poem Biden quoted by Ireland’s Heaney.
It was John’s first White House gig since he performed with Stevie Wonder at a state dinner in 1998 honouring British prime minister Tony Blair.
John is on a farewell tour after performing for more than 50 years.
He will be in town Saturday playing Nationals Park as part of his final tour. He opened the final leg of his North American farewell series in Philadelphia in July.
The president and first lady are big fans. Biden wrote in a 2017 memoir about singing Crocodile Rock to his two young boys as he drove them to school, and again later to son Beau before he died of cancer at age 46.
“I started singing the lyrics to Beau, quietly, so just the two of us could hear it,” Biden wrote.
“Beau didn’t open his eyes, but I could see through my own tears that he was smiling.”
John played the song on Friday, saying someone told him Biden used to sing it.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, was also a fan of John. He tried to get John to perform at his 2017 inauguration but John declined, saying he didn’t think it was appropriate for a Brit to play at the swearing-in of an American president.
The White House insisted Friday’s show wasn’t an effort to troll Trump, who has praised John in his books and has often featured John’s music — including Rocket Man and Tiny Dancer — in his pre-rally playlists over the years.
Trump nicknamed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” for his record of test-firing missiles.
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