LOS ANGELES - At 66 years old, Elton John says he can make whatever kind of music he wants, regardless of commercial pressure, but he professes to love what young musicians are doing today.
At a rare free concert in Los Angeles on Monday night, John told the audience that it's time to turn over the spotlight to younger artists, even as he prepares to release his 30th solo studio album "The Diving Board."
"I (my music) don't play on the radio. It's other people's turn. But at my age, I can do what I want," the British singer-songwriter, clad in his usual long glittering coat, said on Monday during a question-and-answer session between concert segments at the University of Southern California.
Despite the loud and energetic performance that included popular 1970s hits "Tiny Dancer" and "Levon," John's age was a prominent theme of the evening, and he opened the show with the number, "Sixty Years On."
John, who studied music for six years at London's Royal Academy of Music after winning a scholarship at age 11, told the audience, many of whom were music students, that he puts special emphasis on the youth.
"Listen to everything. Don't be dismissive," instructed John, who said he dropped out of music school to pursue rock because his fingers were like "cocktail sausages" and not long enough for a career in classical music.
"I pay tribute to the young. I have faith in the young and I love listening to new music," he added.
John, who underwent surgery this summer for appendicitis, raved about young artists like 16-year-old New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde and described working in the studio with rappers Eminem and Kanye West as inspirational.