Retro Baltimore

The fans embraced Elton John when he played Baltimore in '73, but the critics didn't

Elton John had had enough.

When the British singer and outlandish showman played the Baltimore Civic Center on Sept. 30, 1973, showing up on stage wearing a blue-and-white checkered cape and $2,000 sunglasses that flashed “ELTON,” he energetically ripped through his hits. But the crowd seemed unmoved. Or, at least, they weren’t moving, maybe because the security was too intimidating.


“If you want to get up and dance, you can get up and dance because you paid to get in,” he shouted as his band played “Elderberry Wine,” according to the next day’s account in The Washington Post. The Sun reported him saying, “If the people with the white hats [guards] aren’t out by the end of this number, the concert is over.”

He asked two fans to come up onstage. Some 160 of them answered the invitation — including one little girl “who was stomped by her friends when she fell down” and started to cry. She was still crying 30 minutes beyond the show, even after Elton “consoled her with whisky and sympathy,” according to The Sun.


But what of the show? The Sun’s Bob Grover gave mixed signals, calling the music “quite good,” but adding that Elton’s “melodies are captivating despite his abrasive and, eventually, boring voice.”

No fan of Elton’s treatment of the audience, apparently, Grover sneered, “Elton John the person is a pasty troll.”

But, at least, he liked the show better than The Post’s Tom Zito. In a review headlined “Boring Music, Bad Attitude,” he complained about the “boring, repetitive music,” opining, “after 20 minutes the music sounded drearily monotonous.”

Over his career, Elton has sold more than 300 million records. He’s the subject of the film “Rocketman,” which earned $25.7 million at the U.S. box office its opening weekend last month. And he’s anything but boring.