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Saturday, 22 November 2014

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Blues army for Elton at Brunton Park

By Pam McClounie and Pamela McGowan

CARLISLE United fans were delighted to hear Elton John belting out I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues when he played Brunton Park.

Chants of Blue Army echoed around the football ground on Warwick Road when it was transformed into a 20,000 capacity concert venue for Elton’s performance on Sunday night.

And the star, who turned 60 this year, congratulated the Blues on their two great seasons back to back and wished them all the best for the future.

He thanked the audience at the near-sellout concert for asking him to play.

Previous attempts to bring the Rocket Man to the city were first hit by complications with the ground, then the devastating floods of 2005. But the club persevered and were rewarded with a show to rival any outdoor concert.

Tickets for Elton John went on sale in December last year and sold well. Concert organisers are now hopeful that other stars will follow in his footsteps and play Brunton Park.

Tom Johnstone, the club’s marketing manager, said: “We’ve shown that we can do it and that we can hold successful concerts – hopefully other tour promoters will see that and book to play at Brunton Park.”

Roadies, who were staying at Kingstown’s Premier Travel Inn and B&B’s on Warwick Road, began to prepare the ground for the concert on Bank Holiday Monday by lifting the stage into place and securing the pitch seating.

Everything was organised with military precision and by the time Elton landed by helicopter on the training pitch at 3.45pm, the stage was set for his performance.

Elton spent a few hours relaxing in his dressing room – the Neil Sports Centre – watching Sky Sports and admiring the floral displays which had been prepared by city florist Alison Routledge of Vandella.

Elton, who is known for his love of flowers, chose displays of colourful gerberas, geraniums and white roses.

Arriving on stage 10 minutes before his 7.15pm scheduled time, Elton told the audience he was suffering from bronchitis but wasn’t going to let that stop him enjoying himself.

But banter aside, the main focus of the night was music – and even with a sore throat, Sir Elton did not disappoint the energetic crowd.

Dressed in a black suit with sequined sleeves, back and shoes, he kicked off the 23-song set with Love Lies Bleeding.

From 7.05pm until 9.35pm he hammered out all the big hits – including Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer and Are You Ready For Love? – along with some lesser-known tracks. The atmosphere he created was electric.

During Sacrifice one woman wiped tears from her eyes.

The mix of people at the open-air gig saw everyone, from hardcore Elton fans dressed in pink hats and oversized glasses to children and their mums and dads, all dancing in the aisles to I’m Still Standing.

As an added bonus the predicted heavy downpours held off and the crowd barely noticed the faint spattering of rain towards the end.

Fan Neil Goodwin said: “The music was wonderful considering Elton's bronchitis, but the organisation helped make the day one to remember. The stewards and ground staff ensured that a family atmosphere prevailed and the park and ride was a big success.

“Cumbria has shown that we can stage the best, so let’s have more of the same. Congratulations to all concerned.”

Friends Nerys Dixon, 29, and Louisa Murtarg, 32, both of Carlisle, said it should be the start of bigger things.

“The atmosphere here has been brilliant and to see Carlisle United doing something like this is fantastic. All we have at the moment is the Sands Centre but we need a bigger stage to attract the top stars,” said Nerys.

Paula Mitchell, 39, of Currock, said it was more than worth the ticket price.

“You only have to look at all the work that’s involved, and he is one of the biggest stars in the world,” she said.

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