Me and Sir Elton John go way back. The first time I saw him was way back in the 80s. He is now 71-years-old and has announced that this tour will be his last. The Goodbye Yellow Brick Road tour is planned to last three years as he criss crosses the globe to perform for his fans everywhere for the last time. Those two words….last time….the whole evening was filled with that kind of nostalgic feeling.
Elton John started touring in 1969, so he has travelled many miles, played in all sorts of countries and in front of millions of fans. The guy is the consummate professional. He knows what makes his fans happy and does it for them. Though he did mention that making the setlist for this tour was hard and that he might have left off some songs that people loved just because he has such a large catalogue. For 2 and 1/2 hours or 24 songs he kept the hits coming. Quite impressive stamina (physical and voice) for someone of his age. Full disclosure – he is not as mobile as he was when I first saw him (but hey, who is?!) and his voice is definitely more gravely, but I don’t think anyone of the sold out crowd leaving the Bell Centre on this evening was disappointed.
Despite the fact that Elton is a white Brit the insides of the Bell Centre was transformed into a gospel music based church for large swaths of his set. Plenty of passion and soul in the songs like “Take Me to the Pilot” and “Levon”. At times we were all transported to a large tent in a dusty field with a pastor whipping us all up into a frenzy via a spiritual number or two. All his followers were enrapt. The crowd was filled with people who featured greying temples and some wrinkles, but on this evening they matched Elton’s energy level. Many were up dancing for the majority of the songs and all were treating him to an unsurpassed number of standing ovations.
Sometimes lost amidst all the fanfare and rocking music is the fact that the man is an excellent piano player. He moves those short fingers with amazing dexterity over the keys. There has also been precious few in the history of rock music who have been able to come up with hooks and melodies as catchy as this guy. He just has to play those iconic first few notes of “Bennie and the Jets” to work a room of people up.
His band was up to the task of following Elton down the Yellowbrick Road. On stage he was joined by longtime bandmates/musicians Davey Johnstone on guitar, Nigel Olsson on the drums, and Ray Cooper on percussion. There were also newer members John Mahon on percussion, Kim Bullard on keyboards and Matt Bissonette on the bass. He said this was the best band he ever assembled and I, for one, was convinced.
Even though it was probably my fifth or sixth time seeing Elton live I learned some new things about him. First was the meaning behind his beloved song “Daniel”. He told us he thought the song, lyrics written by his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, was too long, so he cut the last verse, which was the one that explained the whole song. On the large video screen at the back of the stage was an accompanying video that was played during it that explained the song’s meaning. It is about war veteran returning home to the family farm and not being able to feel at home as everyone was treating him like a hero, so leaving for Spain. Another was that his famous AIDS charity came out of the fact that during the 80s he was off his rocker on drugs so did not do anything to help. Feeling guilty he started his charity in 1992 after he got sober and which has now raised in excess of $200 million. While telling us he said that he believes that a cure will be found for the disease before he dies. Finally (most exciting to me), that he is in the process of writing the music for the Broadway version of the film The Devil Wears Prada which will be ready in a year or two. So, Sir Elton John is not going quietly into the night of retirement.
We will miss you Elton!
1) Bennie and the Jets
2) All the Girls Love Alice
3) I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues
4) Border Song
5) Tiny Dancer
6) Philadelphia Freedom
7) Indian Sunset
8) Rocket Man
9) Take Me to the Pilot
10) Someone Saved My Life Tonight
12) Candle in the Wind
13) Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding
14) Burn Down the Mission
17) Sad Songs (Say So Much)
18) Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
19) The Bitch is Back
20) I’m Still Standing
21) Crocodile Rock
22) Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
23) Your Song
24) Goodbye Yellow Brick Road