Review: Goodbye, Elton John

17 March 2020

This concert was 50 years in the making, and my goodness did it exceed my highly-set expectations! 

After performing in Melbourne multiple times throughout his long and successful career, Sir Elton John took his last bow on a Melbourne stage on Sunday 15th December. This 150th show of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour was performed at a packed Rod Laver Arena, full to the brim with fans who were eagerly awaiting the chance to see Elton perform one last time. With only 200 shows remaining before he settles into retirement, I strongly encourage anyone who is a fan to go—right now—and buy a ticket to your closest concert. Not only is Sir Elton John an incredible pianist, singer, and performer, he is an incredibly influential part of history, and this is your last chance to be part of that. 

It is hard to describe the feeling when such a well-established icon, dressed in a bedazzled suit with tails and signature glasses, graces the stage to jump straight into one of his biggest hits, ‘Benny and the Jets’. However, the cheering, screaming, dancing, and very enthusiastic singing shows that the excitement, admiration and awe which I was feeling, was shared by thousands of others in that moment. His fingers were as nimble as ever, and his voice had only gotten better with age.

Sir Elton explained that he has been touring for 50 years. Throughout his career, which has long been in partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin, he has notably won several Grammy and Brit Awards, has created original and popular musical scores (think The Lion King, and Billy Elliot the Musical), has cameoed in movies and TV shows (including The Simpsons), and has released 30 studio albums. This is just a small amount of the legacy he has created, and now aged in his 70s, Elton explained he wants to spend the rest of his life with his family, and this will be his final tour.

Elton’s long-term percussionist Ray Cooper was an integral part of the concert. Not only was he playing his wide range of instruments with incredible skill, but he was also passionately enveloped in the moment, showing his dramatic and theatrical enthusiasm throughout the night. His presence received a standing ovation from the crowd, which is testament to his performance style and love of music. 

Some of the highly-anticipated songs performed on Sunday night included ‘Tiny Dancer’, ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues’, ‘Crocodile Rock’, and ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’. Of course, ‘Candle In The Wind’ was popular amongst fans. Known by many because of Elton’s one-off rendition at Princess Diana’s funeral, the song was originally inspired by Marilyn Monroe, and footage of the celebrity played in the background while Elton performed this piece to his Melbourne fans. His piano also gracefully glided across the stage during ‘Candle In The Wind’, surrounded by smoke.

‘The Bitch Is Back’ was a popular song, with its sassy lyrics and upbeat sound. ‘I’m Still Standing’ was not only wonderfully performed, but held a level of truth to it, as after 50 years of touring, Elton was still standing, playing, singing, and being adored while he did all of it.

I was somewhat disappointed that ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ wasn’t performed, as The Lion King holds a special place in my heart, and so too does that song in particular, but there was reference to the piece throughout the night in imagery. Encircling the large screens behind Elton’s stage, there was a yellow brick road encompassing images of significant aspects of his career, including The Lion King logo, and reference to his AIDS foundation. Elton mentioned his AIDS foundation, discussing how those who have AIDS have no longer been handed a definite death sentence, and how he advocates for the medications available to be more accessible to those from impoverished communities. A video montage was played of all the work Elton has done with his foundation, and footage of him kissing infected babies and hugging others who have the disease, as well as him working alongside Prince Harry to reduce the stigma of AIDS, which brought me to tears. It was a stark reminder of just how much we have learned as a society, and how much further we have to go. If you’re interested in learning more or donating, check out Elton John’s AIDS Foundation.

The large screens behind the stage swapped camera angles often, showing each band member, Elton from the front, and also uniquely his fingers as he played his piano with what seemed like such ease. The screens also were host to pre-made videos which were purposely created to accompany certain songs. Some of these were obscure cartoons with hidden meanings, and others were filmed skits. One of my favourite videos was essentially a collection of diverse individuals dancing, in their own style, in time with the song which was being performed live onstage. Not only was it bright, colourful, and full of enviable dancing ability, the dancers were able to truly express themselves, not being restrained by norms surrounding gender or sexuality. This, of course, is a reflection of Elton’s attitude, as easily seen through his larger than life outfits over the decades.

Whilst on the topic of outfits, it is unsurprising that Sir Elton John had a costume change or two. Around halfway through the concert Elton briefly left the stage, before returning in a floral suit jacket, frilled pink cuffs, and bright pink pants with a silver glittered stripe down each side. As with most concerts, there was an encore, and for this Elton returned in what looked like a green dressing-gown, but surely much fancier up close. At this point Elton sang ‘Your Song’, and dedicated it to the fans in the room. He had made it clear throughout the concert that without the fans, and without them buying his music, seeing his shows, or purchasing merchandise, he would not be in the position he is in. It was sweet for him to take time to recognise this in a public forum, and it did appear genuine. 

The last song he performed in Melbourne, fittingly, was ‘Yellow Brick Road’. During the beautiful piece, Elton removed his outer garment, to reveal a matching jumpsuit. When he turned to walk upstage, we saw that the back of his jacket was bedazzled. The words ‘Elton John’ sparkled as he made his way off stage for the last time in this town.

Sir Elton John, thank you for sharing your life with us for so many decades. It was a pleasure.

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