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Elton John braced for Colosseum gig
[foto] English popstar declares his love affair with Rome (ANSA) - Rome, September 2 - English popstar Elton John was singing the praises of Rome and Italy as he arrived in the capital on Friday ahead of a much-hyped free concert in front of the Colosseum .

The singer, whose Saturday night show is expected to draw half a million people, entered his swish Roman hotel at lunchtime on Friday, looking dapper in a blue suit, red shirt and sunglasses .

The 58-year-old performer, who has a house in Venice, has been declaring his love of Italy in the run-up to a concert he reportedly sees as one of the highlights of his 30-year career .

"I love the style of Italians, the food, the people, their way of going through life," he said in gushing comments published in several national dailies. "I have a sort of love affair with Italy and Rome." He was expected to go shopping in Rome's chic boutiques during the afternoon and to attend a party in the evening at a secret location and with guests that not even Italy's top paparazzi appear to have identified .

The English star said he knew Saturday's concert would be a "fantastic" event because Italian audiences were always the most enthusiastic ones .

John appears intent on making sure that his show at the Colosseum in Rome on Saturday goes down in history .

"I can't wait to be in Rome to play in front of the Colosseum," he said. "I'm honoured by this chance I have to perform in such a special place and in such a special city." The pianist, singer and showman has padded out his normal collection of songs so that the concert will last a good three hours instead of the usual 90 minutes. He is expected to run through most of his greatest hits, including classics such as Your Song, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Candle in the Wind, Daniel and Crocodile Rock .

A huge, aluminium-and-plastic stage has been erected in front of the Colosseum. At 22 metres by 16, it's twice as big as a normal outdoor concert stage. Organisers say that the construction - complete with 20 tons of lights - will be practically transparent so that the ancient Roman gladiators' arena will dominate the view .

The singer was so keen to get the lights and special effects right that he had an identical stage built in the grounds of his mansion near London. That way he could assess and tweak the planned light show at home. Elton John, born Reginald Dwight, is reportedly anxious to see that his Rome gig is no less spectacular than ones given in the same place by Paul McCartney and Simon & Garfunkel .

Those two acts drew crowds of 500,000 to their concerts in 2003 and 2004 .

With the added threat of terrorism, security will be tight at the concert, which is due to start at 9 pm. The nearby Colosseo metro stop will be closed from the morning and traffic in the area will be diverted from the previous evening .

There will be a massive police presence, with many officers in plain clothes mingling in the crowd. An extra 240 private security guards have also been called in to help .
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