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More big-name acts should follow John’s lead

March 27, 2012 by Mark McGlothlen 

When it was announced that Sir Elton John was going to play at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo it set off a shock wave of excitement around this area that has not been seen in quite a while.

But with all the enthusiasm for the big show, there were those who questioned “why.”

Why Kalamazoo and Wings Stadium when the much bigger and prettier Van Andel Arena is just up the road. Why Wings Stadium when there are much bigger facilities like Ford Field and the Palace of Auburn Hills that seat well into the double digits. What would make Sir Elton John come to little ol’ Kalamazoo and the 38-year-old Wings Stadium that seats just 8,000 people for concerts?

Simple. Elton John cares about his fans and decided it was time to bring his music to them in smaller, more intimate venues. We all know John would have no problem selling out the big arenas and making a boatload of cash in the process. But a man of John’s stature knows that it isn’t just about the money or selling out the big name stadiums. It is about the fans, regardless of where they live. The world-renowned artist brought his music and magic to Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo area fans thank him for that.

For three straight hours, John pounded his piano for a packed house at Wings Stadium Wednesday night starting off with “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and “Bennie and the Jets” and ending the show with “Your Song.” In between John reeled off favorites such as “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Crocodile Rock,” “Rocket Man,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and many, many others. John has over 56 Top 40 hits to his credit.

To say Kalamazoo was abuzz with excitement was an understatement. I have lived here for 16 years and I have never witnessed anything that had people talking and so excited like this before. Well, except for when we have had Presidential visits of course.

But I think that this even topped that!

Wings Stadium has hosted everyone from Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Aerosmith and even a President during its storied history. But the days of huge musical acts coming to our area like this have not been seen in almost 20 years.

One of my good friends, Marilyn Pyne of Kalamazoo, attended the show and she could not stop gushing about it.

When John took the stage, Pyne said the crowd went ballistic and she thought to herself, “That is Elton John, this is Kalamazoo, and me and 8,000 of my closest friends are looking at him right now.”

That is why a show in a place like Wings Stadium brings it all home. Sure it was crowded and hot and people were sweating, but no one is complaining about that. They were this close to Elton John. And that is something that is missing from those big stage shows. And that is why John chose to perform this round of shows in venues like Wings Stadium.

Another friend of mine, Kathy West of Richland, attended as well and said “The feel was great -— everyone was having a blast and you could see that he was enjoying himself, too. He got up after every song and thanked everyone in each direction — which was pretty cool.”

For me, Wings Stadium is a second home and has been for the past 15 years, mainly because of K-Wings hockey. I have friends that work there, including Andrea Pluta, Events Coordinator, who when contacted by John’s promoter, put together the winning proposal to bring him to town. To see my friends achieve this kind of success and notoriety is just awesome.

To those who asked “Why?” I say, why not? There are plenty of shows in those big arenas if that suits your needs. I am hopeful that more big name acts follow John’s lead and give their fans in towns like Kalamazoo a night like those who attended his concert last night had. A night to remember. A night where they felt he was truly singing to them.

Pyne noted that as John came out for his encore he took his time to thank the fans. “He walked all the way around his stage, acknowledging the crowd in each little section behind the stage and on the side and then he signed autographs, shook hands and high-fived people all along the front of the stage.”

At one point during the show, John said “Good evening Kalamazoo. I’ve never said that before.” I am sure there are many fans who hope that was not the last time he says it either.

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