06 November 2018 (gig)
08 November 2018
When Elton John announced that he was retiring from touring in 2018, it wasn't a huge surprise, and certainly not the first time he has expressed a desire to leave life on-the-road behind. He had made similar statements in 1977 and 1984, but, obviously those early retirement wishes (fortunately) didn't stick.
Officially dubbed the "Farewell Yellow Brick Road" tour, which will see Elton end his touring career, kicked off in September in Allentown, Pennsylvania and has been a financial and critical success. Supposedly this jaunt will last three years, and so far, he is booked to play as far off into the future as October 2020 in Paris, France. One wonders if he may resume his residency in Las Vegas (which was also a huge triumph) at the end of this massive tour; a residency being a more stable life than exhausting one-night stands.
Elton performed at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on November 6, 2018 to a sold-out house. While the set catered to his more iconic hits, Elton took some chances during his three hour plus set, and even threw a couple of curve balls during the night, much to the pleasure of fans with more adept knowledge of his catalog.
Since the tours name is taken from his quintessential 1973 double disc, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," (and was the inspiration for the images which made up the impressive stage backdrop), he opened with a pair of songs from the record; "Benny and the Jets" (Eltons second number one hit in the U.S.) and "All The Girls Love Alice" (a deep cut from the disc). A stellar take of, "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," led into a solo rendition of "Border Song." Before starting "Border Song," Elton reminisced about how thrilled he and Bernie Taupin (Eltons long-time lyricist) were when they were informed that Aretha Franklin wanted to cover the song in 1970. By performing the song solo, Taupins lyrics of a Utopian vision stood out more and made such lines as, "Holy Moses, let us live in peace/let us strive to find a way to make all hatred cease," extra moving.
While quite overplayed on classic rock radio stations, "Philadelphia Freedom" (a tribute to tennis legend Billie Jean King) thrilled as did an extended "Rocket Man." Eltons tale of being saved from a dominating fiancee' (one who reportedly wanted a young Elton to abandon his music career for marriage), "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" was atmospheric, with Eltons voice reaching one its his highest ranges all night, transforming the latter part of the song into a haunting coda, sounding almost like a prayer of indebtedness to whomever convinced him into staying with his music.
Nostalgic renderings of "Levon" and "Candle in the Wind" (which Elton again performed solo, while on-screen footage of Marilyn Monroe reminded all of the poignant subject of the song), ended the first part of the show on a mellower note. But, that quickly changed as prerecorded sounds of a thunderstorm led into a torrid "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding." "Love Lies Bleeding," one of Eltons most straightforward rockers, tells of a significant others warning to leave a musician if he does not slow his lifestyle down. Still able to deliver a sizzling vocal, Elton soared through (fictional?) lyrics filled of jealousy and abandonment of band mates. Long-time guitarist, Davy Johnstone, was on fire on this song and churned out possibly his most ferocious lead of the night (one of the coolest, and saddest, moments of the night was when, at one point, Johnstone sported a yellow bodied Gibson guitar with the word "Goodbye" stenciled on it).
Before playing 1994's, "Believe," Elton spoke proudly of the success of the Elton John Aids Foundation, which has raised many millions for Aids research. After this was the beginning of a multi-song super-set, where Elton ploughed through epochal songs as "Daniel," (while visuals from the Vietnam War ran on the screen, and let the audience know the anti-war sentiments behind the song), "Sad Songs (Say So Much)," "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," "The Bitch Is Back," and "I'm Still Standing" (from 1983's "Too Low For Zero" record, which was, at the time, lauded as a return to form for Elton after some alleged uneven years in the late 70's and early 80's. While that time that is considered a valley in his popularity, he never stopped making hits, and even scored two U.S. Top 10 singles with 1979's, "Mama Can't Buy You Love," and, "Little Jeannie," in 1980. He also cracked the Top 20 twice in 1982 with, "Blue Eyes," and, "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)." The set climaxed with a potent, "Crocodile Rock," (as Elton handed over the high pitched "La la la" section of the tune to the crowd to sing) and the classic rock staple, "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," leaving the Boston crowd overwhelmed by Eltons sheer diversity and talent.
A two song encore, where Elton appeared wearing a robe, featured his first major U.S. hit, "Your Song," and then concluded flawlessly with, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." After "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," he removed the robe to reveal he was donning a track suit. Elton was then hoisted up in a balloon carriage (by hydraulics, not an actual balloon) which lifted him up and he disappeared into an opening in the visual backdrop screen, only to morph into an animated version of himself walking down the Yellow Brick Road visual.
Will this tour really be the last one and will Elton just do one-off shows at the tours conclusion (Johnstone has recently said that may happen)? Maybe. But for a man who still performs at such an outstanding level, as he did this night, hopefully, this is not really the end.