Sir Elton John celebrated his 60th birthday on Sunday by raising the roof with a three-hour live extravaganza in Manhattan.
Some 20,000 fans at Madison Square Garden danced and sang along ecstatically to a set which ranged from John’s rarely-played early hits to classics such as “Rocket Man,” “Bennie and the Jets” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.”
John’s record-breaking 60th show at the stadium opened with a surprise introduction by Bill Clinton, featured special appearances by comedians Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg and ended with an emotional rendition of “Your Song.”
“This man, who has an Oscar, a bunch of Grammys, a Tony – oh yes, the trifecta,” Williams told the crowd of the singer, famous for his outrageous wigs and costumes, “used to make Liberace look Amish! ”
Dressed in a black tailcoat, John took the stage to a standing ovation and opened the show with his hit “Sixty Years On.”
Many celebs turned out, including Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, Kid Rock and model May Andersen, Pierce Brosnan, Liv Tyler, Jon Bon Jovi, Jewel, Paul Rudd, Keifer Sutherland, Anderson Cooper, Anna Hathaway, Liz Hurley with new husband Arun Nayar and Rosie O’Donnell, who said, “I love Elton John and I wish him 60 more years!”
The celebration followed a lavish private birthday party at Manhattan’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine. A similar bash was held in London earlier this month.
Elton dedicated “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” to partner David Furnish, whom he wed in 2005. “I’m quite fond of this song and I’d like to dedicate it to my other half,” John said. “Thank you for everything you’ve done this weekend.”
John, born Reginald Dwight in north London, said he had known several years ago what he wanted to do when he turned 60.
“I knew I had done 59 shows at Madison Square Garden and I said the only place I want to be is New York City on my 60th birthday.”
One of his most memorable MSG shows was in November 1974, when he was joined on stage by John Lennon in what turned out to be the former Beatle’s last concert appearance before his death.
“I’ve never heard a reception like that,” John told the crowd of his performance with a “very petrified” Lennon. Before launching into “Empty Garden,” the tribute he and Bernie Taupin wrote after Lennon’s death, he said: “I hardly ever sing this song … because it’s too upsetting for me to sing it anywhere else. In memory of one of the greatest men, songwriters, John Lennon.”
John’s first hit, “Your Song,” made the U.S. top 10 in 1971; since then, he has sold about 200 million albums. He has been deeply involved in raising funds for his AIDS charity since the 1990s.
Sunday’s concert was shown live online by MSN and was recorded for worldwide TV specials.