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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Friday night’s all right for Elton

John lands at Spokane Arena for tonight’s sold-out show

The Inland Northwest has enjoyed a long and happy relationship with Elton John.

At least, John should be happy with it, from a box-office standpoint. His show tonight at the Spokane Arena sold all 11,000 tickets in three days.

And that includes the seats behind the stage.

In fact, every time, Reg Dwight (yes, that’s his real name) has appeared in the region, the tickets have gone rocketing out of the box office. This will be the fourth time Sir Elton has taken the stage in the Inland Northwest.

Here’s a recap of his history in our region, beginning with the show that slipped away:

September 1995 – Rumors had been swirling for months: Would Elton John be the blockbuster inaugural act at the new Spokane Arena?

These were not idle rumors. The Arena’s management wanted him badly, partly because he was the perfect cross-generational household name, and partly because he was already scheduled into Tacoma and Vancouver and had some available dates.

Arena management tried sweetening the deal financially and sending him some Arena baseball caps and other souvenirs.

To no avail. John added second shows in both Tacoma and Vancouver, closing off any possibility of making a jaunt over the Cascades.

So who was the Arena’s inaugural act? Country singer John Michael Montgomery, not exactly an Elton-sized name, was booked – but then had to cancel with throat problems. So a National Hockey League exhibition game formally launched the venue.

Spokane Arena, May 29, 1999: It took almost four more years, but the Spokane Arena finally snagged Elton John.

And the box office went crazy. Fans started lining up at 3 a.m. Tickets sold out in a little over two hours.

This was a solo show – just the man and his piano. He took the stage in a pink, sparkly suit and sang many of his hits, including “Crocodile Rock,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Rocket Man” and “Honky Cat.”

The Spokesman-Review’s young pop music critic, Winda Benedetti, was not impressed. She said that “for every dazzler, there were at least two or three snoozers” and called it “bloated humdrum.”

“Hardcore fans are likely penning letters to the editor now,” she wrote. “But c’mon. You know I’m right.”

Oh, no, they didn’t. Letters poured in, praising the show as “masterful” and “astonishing.” One letter-writer wrote, “Jeez, Benedetti, grow up, will you?”

Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum, Pullman, 2008: John and his band were booked in for Mom’s Weekend on April 12, 2008, at Washington State University. The moms – and other fans – went into a ticket-buying frenzy.

As soon as tickets went on sale on Jan. 25, 2008 at 10 a.m., about 6,000 customers attempted to buy tickets at the same time. The load was so heavy that the TicketsWest website started flashing an “under maintenance” page on at least two separate occasions while the system tried to deal with this massive onslaught. It was probably the site’s most traffic ever.

At the same time, 5,000 calls per minute were pouring into the TicketsWest phone centers. But these issues didn’t slow down the ticket buyers much.

Within two hours, all 11,500 tickets were sold. Lots of students complained that they – and their moms – were shut out.

Elton and his management got the message clearly: There was still plenty of demand. So a few weeks later a second show was added on April 13.

WSU students who wanted tickets were issued wristbands with randomly assigned numbers to assure them a place in line when the second show’s tickets went on sale.

That concert, too, almost sold out. In all, more than 22,000 people attended the two shows.

John walked onstage wearing a black coat with tails and gold piping. He played “Tiny Dancer,” “Candle In the Wind,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” and many of his other hits.

One fan was quoted by WSU Today as saying that the only way a show could have been any better was if “two Beatles were resurrected and all four of them reunited.”

Tonight, Spokane Arena: Once again, John will be here with his band, in a show billed as “Greatest Hits Live.”

He opened a recent concert in Pittsburgh with a 12-minute version of “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” then dedicated “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” to his good friend, Elizabeth Taylor.

You can expect to hear most of the hits mentioned above, along with “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “Levon,” “Burn Down the Mission” and “Your Song.”

Just another Elton love-fest in the Inland Northwest.

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