Many expected Elton John to cancel his Dec. 6 and 7 Russia concerts due to the country’s recent ban on “homosexual propaganda,” but the openly gay singer took the shows as an opportunity instead to offer some opinions on the anti-LGBT legislation and to dedicate his Moscow performance to Vladislav Tornovoi, a 23-year-old man who was tortured and murdered after supposedly telling his friends that he was gay.
The singer did not directly address Vladimir Putin, or even get very political, but instead expressed his shock in Russia’s recent policies, saying, “You have always embraced me and you have never judged me. So I am deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation that is now in place against the LGBT community here in Russia.”
John also commented on why he didn’t cancel the shows, adding that he doesn’t “believe in isolating people. Music is a very powerful thing. It brings people together irrespective of their age, their race, their sexuality, or their religion … The spirit we share tonight is what builds a future of equality, love and compassion for my children and for your children. Please don’t leave it behind when you leave tonight.”
Before the trip, John told NPR’s Fresh Air why he wouldn’t be canceling.
“On one hand, I want to say, ‘I’m not going and you can go to hell, you guys.’ But that’s not helping anyone who’s gay or transgendered over there. I’ve been going to Russia since 1979. I’ve been going quite frequently, and I’ve always had a wonderful rapport with the Russian audiences and with the Russian people. And you know there are a lot of great Russian people out there who are outraged by what’s going on, but they don’t have — I don’t want to abandon them. Now, I’ll probably get criticized for going, and I can understand that. It’s just that I, as a gay man and a gay musician, cannot stay at home and not support these people who have been to lots of my concerts in the past. I’m aware of the situation and I will be diplomatic. I’m not going to go into Russia and tell [Vladimir Putin] to go to hell and things like that. That’s not the way things are done. You chip away at something, and you hope there will be dialogue and that the situation can get better. You don’t just go in there with guns blazing and say, ‘Well, to hell with you.’ Because they’re going to say, ‘To hell with you, and get out of the country.’ That’s not going to solve anything. But if I can go there, maybe I can talk to some people in the administration.
“You can make a statement and you can read it from the stage, but it would be nice, and it would be much more fulfilling to try and meet with people in Moscow and say, ‘Listen, this is just, you know, this is silly. It’s a reactionary knee-jerk thing. It’s harming your reputation in the rest of the world. It’s not doing you any good. There has to be some discussion here. What you’re doing is outrageous.’ [Pauses.] They can tell me to go to hell. I’ve gotta do it diplomatically, but I’m going to say what I think and what I feel.”
What do you make of his comments? Bold move in Russia? Something that needed to be said?