Behind the Poster: Elton John Los Angeles 1970
August 25, 2020 marked the 50th Anniversary of Elton John's iconic first performance in the United States at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. We are honored to be releasing Elton John's official concert poster commemorating the 50th Anniversary, illustrated by Kevin Tong.
Kevin created this stunning 8 color screenprint that is as vibrant and electric (or as close as one can get!) as Elton's performance was. The colors emanate from Elton's piano and surround him, elevating him off the ground as he performed in front of a packed house of stunned members of the audience at the Troubadour. We are offering two editions, both are 8 colors, with the main edition printed on French White paper and a variant edition printed on holographic rainbow foil paper.
Throughout the late 1960's, a young Elton John struggled to find success as a singer-songwriter. Despite airplay of his single "Border Song" from his debut album Empty Sky released in 1969, he was still doing session work into the first half of 1970 when his second album Elton John was released (and charted in the UK).
On August 25, 1970 Elton John flew to the United States and signed a new record deal on MCA's Uni label. He then made his U.S. debut at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. There were many notable attendees present, including one of his artistic heroes, Leon Russell, as well as Neil Diamond, Quincy Jones, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills.
Elton John remembers giving the performance his all. "The atmosphere during those nights at the Troubadour was electric. Something inside me just took over. I knew this was my big moment and I really went for it." Elton further explained, "the energy I put into my performance, kicking out my piano stool and smashing my legs down on the piano, caught everyone off guard. It was pure rock ’n’ roll serendipity. Even before the reviews came in, we knew that something special had happened."
“It was totally engulfing,” Troubadour owner Doug Weston told Rolling Stone in 1987. “You were spellbound. Nobody had ever seen anybody playing a piano with their feet up in the air like that. He literally flew at the end. There were times when his hands were on the keyboard — and that was the only part of him that was in contact with the ground.”
The Los Angeles Times proclaimed, "Tuesday night at the Troubadour was just the beginning. He's going to be one of rock’s biggest and most important stars.” "Rejoice!” the Times pop critic Robert Hilburn wrote. “Rock music has a new star." The late Russ Regan, president of Uni Records, would later observe: “I didn’t come down for two days I was so high from the excitement of that night." Rolling Stone included the Troubadour shows in a recent list of the 50 greatest concerts of the rock era. "
Writing for GC Magazine to celebrate 50 years of the concert, Elton recalls wanting to give the audience the night of their lives: "I was running on adrenaline again, like a greyhound being let out of the traps," he says. "They got rock'n'roll, handstands, a singer wearing boots with wings on them. We tore into songs such as 'Sixty Years On', improvising, the three of us following each other instinctively until they sounded nothing like the album," Elton adds.
The Troubadour concert was a cataclysmic moment that created the momentum that fueled Elton John’s commercial explosion. Word of the incredible new talent started spreading and within just a few months his single “Your Song” began climbing the charts. It hit the Top 10 in February 1971 and helped the Elton John LP reach Number 4 on the Billboard 200. Elton John went on to play eight shows in six nights at the Troubadour, and those shows helped turn him from an unknown into rock’s biggest star since the Beatles.