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It had been a feat to keep the piano from falling off the boat. First, we had to roll it to the shore, then carry it on giant floats, before sliding it onto an inflatable stage. The 2.7-metre Yamaha Disklavier weighed over 300 kilos. Elton John himself had put on a little weight during the concert preparations in Switzerland, having been unable to resist the fondues, chocolates and Vaudois salami…
“Quincy recalled how this utterly insane project had come about, a year before, backstage at the Saussaz Stadium. He had come to see his old friend sing for his farewell tour, performing a string of hits in front of 15,000 mesmerised fans.”
“He’s sure to drown,” Quincy Jones whispered as he watched the manoeuvres from the shady terrace of the Montreux Music and Convention Centre. Horrified by the idea, savouring a small blini topped with caviar, Quincy recalled how this utterly insane project had come about, a year before, backstage at the Saussaz Stadium. He had come to see his old friend sing for his farewell tour, performing a string of hits in front of 15,000 mesmerised fans. It was an utterly amazing concert. There was no doubt, Elton knew how to set the stage alight. We stomped to “Bennie And The Jets”, jigged to “Saturday Night’s Alright”, screamed the lyrics to “Rocket Man”, cried when he played “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”… “You were sensational, Elton!” he said to the star as he hugged him. Through his rose-coloured glasses, Elton’s eyes sparkled.
- And that departure, with the piano leaving the stage, everyone loved it!
- Thank you! Next time, I will play on the lake…
Amidst the excitement, everyone had agreed.
- That would be amazing, Elton!
- What a great idea!
- To be honest, no one thought it was really your farewell tour.
- You’ll be bored to death if you stop!
- Instead, why don’t you say goodbye to that white shirt and put on the sequined one, honey? It’s slimming.
We had kissed, smack smack, wiped the lipstick off our cheeks, then we had gone home to bed, after a nightcap at the Belvedere, our heads full of dancing stars, that crazy idea forgotten. But the next day, Sir Elton John’s team had called the jazz festival programmer.
- How are we going to organise Elton’s concert on the water?
“The greatest singer of all time singing on Lake Geneva? So, we agreed to everything: Elton’s underwater entrance onto the floating stage, the flight of the doves during “Candle In The Wind”, the flying fish above the shiny black piano…”
How could we say no? The greatest singer of all time singing on Lake Geneva? So, we agreed to everything: Elton’s underwater entrance onto the floating stage, the flight of the doves during “Candle In The Wind”, the flying fish above the shiny black piano…
Elton arrived at the Montreux Palace 12 months later with his team (about a hundred people) to coordinate everything. It was insane. Everyone was now standing on the bank, shouting instructions while the precious instrument was threatening to crash down on the technicians who were carrying it, half immersed in the water… Finally, it tipped over, with a small humf, onto the stage. Phew. It was now floating in the middle of the lake, as still as a blue mirror, the same colour as the sky, and one could no longer distinguish the clouds from the air caressing the water, nor the horizon, in these varying shades of blue. Was the piano in the water, upside down, right side up? It was beautiful. At that moment, Elton, wrapped in a large, glistening, watertight cape, emerged from the depths. Thunderous applause. He nodded his head and began to play. “I’m still standing, yeah yeah yeah!”
Anne-Sophie Jahn, Le Point