Elton John Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour - Napier
Elton John Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour - Napier

Blame it on the rain — not Elton John

AS any concert goer - regular gig pigs or once-in-a-blue-mooners - will tell you, cancelled shows suck.

Generally it happens a fair way before the show - "unforeseen circumstances" (no one bought tickets) or "scheduling clashes" (they had a better offer overseas).

Sometimes it's much closer to the curtain raising - when the artist is "exhausted" (from consuming too many drugs) or has lost their voice (see previous excuse) and sometimes they've *actually* lost their voice or someone's broken their hand or had their hand broken by a bandmate.

It's pretty rare for a concert to be axed while the audience is watching.

But that's what happened at Elton John's January 31 Yarra Valley show, where the superstar copped the extremes of our new normal summer in one evening.

He started his A Day on the Green concert in blistering heat (noting "it's f---king hot") and prematurely ended it 96 minutes later when, to quote the man himself, the rain set in.

And when we say rain, we mean a freak storm delivering a biblical heavy shower and wild wind, which directed the rain onto the stage - and directly onto the superstar.

While Elton's hair held firm in a torrential downpour (impressive) his piano and other instruments and monitors on stage were not quite as waterproof.

Water and electricity are a bad combination anywhere - but when a piano being played by a music icon in the middle of his farewell tour is given a sudden bath it's not too difficult to see why promoters stopped the concert.

Not just for the fact it was dangerous for Elton - whose farewell tour doesn't wind up until 2021 so any injury to him (such as being electrocuted in front of 12,000 fans) is potentially going to derail a travelling circus that employs hundreds of people and pumps major bucks into tourism wherever it goes.

Here's where it gets tricky. Elton was covered in tarps, ushered off stage and the concert was deemed unsafe to continue.

Promoter Michael Chugg told the Herald Sun this week they knew the rain was coming (outdoor promoters pay a small fortune for state of the art weather monitoring because, literally, their shows can depend on it) but the storm appeared earlier than boffins predicted.

Elton John’s Yarra Valley concert was called off due to a freak storm. Picture: Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images
Elton John’s Yarra Valley concert was called off due to a freak storm. Picture: Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images

The heavy rain stopped while punters were trying to exit the venue, but there'd been too much damage to the on stage equipment for the show to go on - you can't just get a replacement customised piano on a whim.

As Elton's Australian promoter Chugg got on stage that night to explain what was going on - and what wasn't going on.

In the heat of the moment he told fans to hold onto their tickets and they'd try and work out rescheduling the show.

It wasn't to be. They desperately tried to reschedule the concert - no promoter wants 12 pissed off fans, let alone 12,000 - sadly after negotiating with the superstar's team in London there was no window for the enormous production to return to the Yarra Valley and the concert was officially cancelled.

While there are days off between his remaining Australian dates before March 7, some are travel days, some are days off (the singer is 72 and has his young family here), some are filled with other commitments that were unable to be moved.

Speaking this week, Chugg told the Herald Sun "We do feel bad, maybe I shouldn't have said a word about trying to reschedule on the night, because I didn't have a clue, it all happened so quickly, there was no time to look at itineraries, I just said we'd do our best. I understand everybody's disappointment, we're disappointed too."

While no punter wants a concert to be cancelled, neither does an artist or a promoter. It's a nightmare for everyone. That's why it's a last resort.

Here's where it gets trickier.

Not only was it impossible to reschedule the show (Elton played the next night in the rain - on the audience, not him) but as he played more than half the show technically promoters don't have to offer refunds.

Outdoor shows have astronomical insurance policies - which are presumably going to get higher after this Australian summer where everything from bushfire smoke haze to torrential rain has either stopped or threatened shows. Spoiler: you'll end up wearing that cost.

96 minutes was not the full show people paid big bucks for, but it was a lot of the show. Not everything, but better than nothing.

Torrential rain buckets down at Elton John’s concert. Picture: Instagram/Susan Ellis
Torrential rain buckets down at Elton John’s concert. Picture: Instagram/Susan Ellis

Again, no one wins here. A Day on the Green have offered the 12,000 ticketholders who aren't being refunded a free ticket to one of three shows (a-ha and Rick Astley, Simple Minds or James Blunt) at the same venue.

Some are happy. Many are not. And they've taken to social media to complain, because that's what it's for.

That's their right, and it is a disappointing situation, but it's hard to lay a finger of blame here.

Vent at promoters, venues or artists all you like. It sucks. They get it. They didn't want this situation to happen either, especially on a farewell tour where obviously there's not a chance to come back next time.

There's an inherent risk when you buy tickets to outdoor shows. You have to be prepared to be drenched or fried if the weather is not your friend on concert day. And yes, sometimes, in rare cases, it's too dangerous to perform.

When the weather is great, an outdoor show is a special experience. It's why people roll the dice.

If you don't want to take the gamble, most of these tours also play indoor venues. Not as picturesque, maybe not as close to your home, but there's a roof.

Cameron Adams is News Corp Australia's national music writer

@cameron_adams



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