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The concert, recorded on December 14 1986, was the last of a series of concerts done throughout the last two months of 1986. The concerts consisted of two sets: the first was limited to John and his 14-piece band, including backing vocalists and the Onward International horn section, and his flamboyant stage dress, featuring Mohawk and Tina Turner wigs and some outlandish eye wear; the second featured John, the band and the 88-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, with him dressed as Mozart.
James Newton-Howard, who was at the time an up-and-coming film composer in Hollywood, joined John to conduct and write larger, augmented charts of not only his own previous work on "Tonight," but also Paul Buckmaster's original arrangements, since the music was to be played by 88 musicians, instead of the smaller studio orchestra for which the compositions were originally designed. He also wrote brand new full orchestra parts for songs such as "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", which previously only had horn arrangements.
The album features most of the songs recorded in the second half of the show, excluding "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting", "Carla/Etude", "Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)" and "Slow Rivers".
John's live sound engineer, Clive Franks, handled the recording of the band (assisted by Keith Walker and Dennis Fox), while album producer Gus Dudgeonsupervised recording of the orchestra by Leon Minervini and Nic Jeremy. Dudgeon took the tapes back to Wisseloord Studios in the Netherlands for mixing with engineer Graham Dickson, who had also worked on Leather Jackets.
This concert was the last to feature Elton's legendary stage costumes, which he had featured in his shows since the early 1970s. It was also his last show before undergoing throat surgery in January 1987. The surgery, although completely successful, prevented Elton from singing at all for several months and from touring for 18 months. The surgery also effectively lowered his range from tenor to baritone.
- "Sixty Years On" – 5:41
- "I Need You to Turn To" – 3:14
- "The Greatest Discovery" – 4:09
- "Tonight" – 5:58
- "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" – 3:58
- "The King Must Die" – 5:21
- "Take Me to the Pilot" – 4:22
- "Tiny Dancer" – 7:46
- "Have Mercy on the Criminal" – 5:50
- "Madman Across the Water" – 6:38
- "Candle in the Wind" – 4:10
- "Burn Down the Mission" – 5:49
- "Your Song" – 4:04
- "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" – 8:46
In the US, it was certified gold in January 1988 and platinum in October 1995 by the RIAA.
A home video release commemorated the concert and was originally released on both laserdisc and VHS. The Laserdisc edition included much of the "Elton & His Band" portion of the show (except "Heartache All Over the World" and "This Town"), and reinserted "Saturday Night's Alright..." at the end of the symphony orchestra portion. A version of the Laserdisc program has surfaced on DVD. Of the "Elton & His Band" portion, "Daniel" and "Medley: Song for You, Blue Eyes, I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" were issued in 1988 as bonus tracks on the Rocket Maxi-Single for "A Word in Spanish" (UK/Europe only) as EJSCD 18, 872 299-2. The audio from "Carla/Etude" from the concert appeared on the To Be Continued... boxed set.
The original 1987 US CD release on MCA Records (MCAD-8022) is clocks in at 73:58, whilst the 1998 remastered CD edition on Mercury/Island Records (314 558 477-2) runs only 73:48. The missing time is due to the removal of several seconds of applause following the song "Tonight".
The tracklisting for both editions is the same. However, the running time of most of the remastered tracks vary from the original release due to a different placement of the track marks between songs. In many cases, the track mark changes move a song's spoken introduction from the beginning of the track to the end of the preceding track.
The live version of "Candle In The Wind" (b/w "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word") was released as a single in the US in 1987, peaking at #6 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and in the UK in 1988, peaking at #5.
- Produced by Gus Dudgeon
- Mastered by Greg Fulginiti US
- Elton John: piano, vocals
- Davey Johnstone: guitars
- David Paton: bass guitar
- Charlie Morgan: drums
- Fred Mandel: keyboards, synthesisers
- Ray Cooper: percussion
- Jody Linscott: percussion
- Alan Carvell: backing vocals
- Gordon Neville: backing vocals
- Shirley Lewis: backing vocals
- James Newton-Howard: orchestral arrangements, conductor