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Published February 21 2012

Elton John to perform at Ralph Engelstad Arena March 24

One of the world’s biggest musical stars, Elton John, is coming with his band to Grand Forks for a concert March 24 at Ralph Engelstad Arena, officials at the Ralph announced this morning.

Tickets will go on sale to the public beginning Monday, Feb. 27, at 10 a.m.

Tickets are $39, $79 and $139 each and will be available at Ticketmaster.com, the Ralph Engelstad Arena Box Office, or charge-by-phone (800) 745-3000. There is an 8 ticket limit per customer, and ticket orders subject to service fees.

The Ralph has been working to bring John to Grand Forks for at least three years, said Chris Semrau, director of special events and marketing at the Ralph. In terms of talent, prestige and big names, it’s tough to top Elton John, he said.

“This will be one of the biggest (name) concerts we will ever have,” Semrau said in an interview.

Elton John’s band includes Davey Johnstone on guitar, Bob Birch on bass, John Mahon on percussion, Nigel Olsson on drums and Kim Bullard on keyboards.

Sir Elton John (he was knighted in 1998) is a singer, songwriter and occasional actor who began playing piano in 1951 and started touring the world as a pop musician in 1969. He has an Oscar for Best Original Song for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” the song he wrote for “The Lion King,” and is known world-wide for his contributions to the fight against AIDs.

John played the Fargodome in 1997, returning in 2003 in a tour with fellow piano man Billy Joel. Both times, his concerts sold well and filled hotels and restaurants in the area.

John, who will turn 65 on March 25, the day after his concert in Grand Forks, was the biggest pop star of the early 1970s in terms of sales and lasting popularity. His dipped into soul, disco, and country, as well as classic pop ballads and progressive rock with skill, charisma and flamboyant stage shows.

Many of his songs, including “Your Song,” “Rocket Man,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” became contemporary pop standards. Between 1972 and 1976, John’s and Bernie Taupin’s hitmaking machine was virtually unstoppable. “Rocket Man” began a four-year streak of 16 Top 20 hits in a row. “Honky Chateau” began a streak of seven consecutive No. 1 albums. Some other high water marks in John’s life and career.

In 1974, he played and sang on John Lennon’s No. 1 comeback single “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.”

His 1983 album, “Too Low For Zero,” began his last great streak of hit singles, with the MTV hit “I’m Still Standing” and the Top Ten single “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.” Throughout the rest of the ‘80s, John’s albums would consistently go gold, and they always generated at least one Top 40 single.

After battles with substance abuse and bulimia, he got sober by 1991 and the following year established Elton John AIDS Foundation, announcing he would donate all royalties from his single sales to AIDS research.

In 1994, John collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice on songs for Disney’s animated feature “The Lion King.” One of their collaborations, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

In 1997, John sang at the funeral of Princess Diana and then released a recording of “Candle in the Wind” as a tribute to her, with profits earmarked for her favorite charities. It became the fastest-selling hit of all time in both Britain and the U.S.

In recent years, John has busied himself with stage work, Vegas shows and recording, including a 2010 duet album (“The Union”) with Leon Russell, who had been one of John’s earliest influences.