Elton John performs at Mayan pyramids

Agence France Presse

Posted at Apr 05 2010 07:23 AM | Updated as of Apr 05 2010 03:24 PM

CHICHEN ITZA, Mexico – Pop legend Elton John has entertained thousands of fans at an open air concert at the ancient Mayan pyramids of Chichen Itza in southeastern Mexico.

Nearly 6,000 spectators who paid between 80 and 800 dollars (60-600 euros) per ticket heard some of the British singer-songwriter's most popular classics on Saturday, with the pre-Hispanic Temple of Kukulkan as a backdrop.

The 90-minute concert went ahead amidst the majestic pyramids despite indigenous leaders' complaints and an accident Thursday that saw the stage collapse, injuring three workers.

Local Mayan leaders complained the concert was irreverent and out of place. They said Thursday's accident was the work of "aluxes," the Mayan culture's equivalent of fairies, who were upset because their gods' permission for the concert was lacking.

At the concert, John cheered fans with hits like "Sacrifice," "Tiny Dancer" and "Rocket Man." He closed the show with "The Circle of Life."

Ever since his arrival Saturday afternoon on a private jet from London, John was protected by a police and military operation with hundreds of officers who also set up roadblocks at the entrances to the archeological site. He was scheduled to leave Mexico within hours of his performance.

The state of Yucatan, home to Chichen Itza, is considered one of the safest in Mexico, where a brutal drug war has killed over 15,000 people in the past three years.

John was the fourth major international star to perform at Chichen Itza, a UNESCO World Heritage site, after British soprano Sarah Brightman (2009), Spanish tenor Placido Domingo (2008) and Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti (1997).

These events have triggered protests by some indigenous leaders, who accuse the Yucatan government of jeopardizing what remains of the ancient ceremonial site to profit from elitist performances.