Sir Elton John Brings Final Tour to Madison Square


John, now in his fiftieth year of touring, began his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour in September. (Ryan Di Corpo/The Fordham Ram)

By Ryan Di Corpo

“Don’t wish it away / Don’t look at it like it’s forever,” sang Sir Elton John to a frenzied, sold-out crowd Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Over the past five decades, John has forged a peerless path in the worlds of music and fashion — his own yellow brick road bedecked with spirited flamboyance, dynamic energy and utter control of his craft. This has placed him among the most significant pop cultural influences of the 20th and now 21st centuries.

An Academy, Tony and five-time Grammy Award-winner inducted into both the Songwriters and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame, John has sold over 300 million records and held seven consecutive number one albums in the U.S.

John maintained a song, or more, in the Billboard Hot 100 for every year from 1970 to 2000. And now, in his fiftieth year of touring, John is preparing for his ever-approaching kaleidoscopic curtain call.

Yes, the days of exclaiming, “I’ve got tickets to Elton John!” will not last forever, but John is not exiting stage right with a whisper.

His current and almost certainly final tour, the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, is a three-year, over 300-show extravaganza which takes John to a variety of cities throughout Europe and North America.

Reading his list of tour stops feels like watching NORAD Tracks Santa — he seems to be at a new location every minute. When this article is published, John will be in Nashville, then two days later in Chicago and then four days later in St. Louis.

On Friday night, John was nearly as adrenalized as the crowd, proclaiming that Madison Square Garden is his favorite place to perform.

“It never gets old,” said John.

The concert began with the most dramatic chord possible, opening John’s 1974 single “Bennie and the Jets.” From there, John launched into a 24-song, two-and-a-half hour-long showcase of his greatest hits and lesser-known gems, such as “All the Girls Love Alice.”

A highlight of the concert, which saw John seated at a piano in front of his band and a large screen for exhibiting various music videos, included strong vocals by John and vigorous percussion by longtime band member Ray Cooper on “Indian Sunset.”

Other standout moments included a spectacular jam session mid-“Levon” that revealed the large talents of John’s band and a highly theatrical, smoke-filled opening to “Funeral for a Friend/Loves Lies Bleeding.”

John, alongside his longtime lyric-writing partner Bernie Taupin, has more hits than can possibly be performed in a single night. Near the conclusion of the concert, I thought that John had played through his most popular songs.

Then he played “Crocodile Rock,” serving as a reminder that John’s catalogue is so vast and varied it is difficult to comprehend, never mind estimate its full impact on the American musical landscape.

During the concert, John spoke of his songwriting process and his continued work with Taupin, which John described as “at its best it’s ever been now.” He further stated that “personally and professionally [the relationship] has gotten stronger.”

John detailed how, once he is given a lyric by Taupin, a “little movie” appears in John’s head to help initiate the writing of a song.

The night was emotional for John, who said he would always remember the concert and expressed his gratitude in a heartfelt speech to the audience near the night’s end.

“Never in a million years did I think this would happen,” said John in reference to his unmatched success. He referred to his current band — comprised of mainstays Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson and Ray Cooper and newer members Kim Bullard and Matt Bissonette — as “probably the finest one of all.”

John stated that while he is retiring from touring to spend more time with his husband, David Furnish, and two young sons, he will miss being on the road.

“The greatest thrill of all is playing to another human being,” said John.

The feeling is mutual for his fans, who have two more years to be thrilled by the showmanship and musical artistry unique to Elton John before he wanders down those yellow bricks.

John, now in his fiftieth year of touring, began his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour in September. (Ryan Di Corpo/The Fordham Ram)