Elton John celebrates 60th birthday

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Elton John celebrated his 60th birthday at Madison Square Garden on Sunday by recalling late Beatle John Lennon and raising his own record for most appearances at the storied New York venue.

Wearing rose-tinted glasses and a black tail coat, John sat at his piano and played more than 30 hit songs from a career spanning four decades. He began with “Sixty Years On,” after an introduction by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

John told the elated crowd filled with supporters and friends, including his lyricist partner Bernie Taupin, that the arena was the obvious choice to ring in his birthday, with a record-breaking 60th concert there.

“I knew I had 59 shows here and I said the only place I wanted to be was in New York City at Madison Square Garden ,” he said, before later thanking the crowd for their “loyalty, love and support” in a three-hour long performance.

He recalled two memorable performances at the arena - playing after the September 11 attacks, as well as in November, 1974, when John Lennon joined him on stage in what turned out to be Lennon’s last concert appearance.

“I have never heard a reception for anyone like that in my life,” he said, saying how he still mourned Lennon’s death.

“It’s too upsetting for me to sing it anywhere else,” he told the crowd before singing “Empty Garden,” with the lyrics “Oh hey, hey, Johnny can’t you come out to play?” - he and Taupin’s tribute song to Lennon following his death.

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Taupin joined comedians Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams on stage to sing “Happy Birthday”, telling the audience “there is nobody I have more respect and love for than him.”

John retorted that without Taupin, “we wouldn’t be here tonight, because the words have always come first,” before launching into their hit 1973 hit “Daniel.”

The crowd swayed and sang along to many of his songs including “Honky Cat,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Rocket Man,” “Sad Songs Say So Much,” and “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.”

John displayed none of the outrageous costumes and wigs that were once his trademark, a penchant that Williams joked made John “a man who used to make Liberace look Amish.”

John, born Reginald Dwight, has increasingly been outspoken against homophobia following his December 2005 civil partnership ceremony with David Furnish. He dedicated “Something About The Way You Look Tonight” to Furnish.

The concert ended with, “Your Song,” which in 1971 gave John his first hit single in a career that eventually sold more than 200 million albums worldwide.