Say­ing Farewell with flair

A con­fi­dent El­ton John hits the Yel­low Brick Road

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - ENTERTAINMENT - MESFIN FEKADU

PHILADEL­PHIA — Af­ter 90 min­utes of non­stop singing and pi­ano play­ing — which had au­di­ence mem­bers on their feet and des­per­ately wait­ing for more — El­ton John re­turned to the stage dra­mat­i­cally, and epi­cally.

There was the sound of loud thun­der­storms, dark blue, smoky lights sur­round­ing the arena, and a grand, can­dle-lit chan­de­lier on the large screen — all while mu­sic in the vein of Michael Jack­son’s Thriller played in the back­ground.

A strong light beamed from the ceil­ing to John’s pi­ano as if he were Bat­man. Af­ter all, his per­for­mance was heroic.

The Rocket Man, who kicked off his Farewell Yel­low Brick Road Tour about 100 kilo­me­tres from Philadel­phia on Satur­day, sang like a con­fi­dent, elec­tri­fied pro in the City of Brotherly Love on Tues­day. It was the sec­ond show on his 300date tour set to reach five con­ti­nents, stretch­ing into 2021. He plans to re­tire from the road af­ter the shows.

John’s cus­tom Gucci blazer was cov­ered with pink flow­ers and green stems — which matched his pink shoes and green glasses with rhine­stones — when he emerged to sing again, as his pi­ano smoothly moved from one end of the stage to the cen­tre.

His per­for­mance through­out the night was so rous­ing that con­cert­go­ers, rang­ing from 30-some­things to peo­ple about John’s age (he’s 71), re­acted in var­i­ous ways: Some recorded ev­ery mo­ment with their cell­phones like anx­ious teenagers, while oth­ers danced with­out a care, yelled ev­ery lyric and played the air-pi­ano. Oth­ers calmly took in the en­ergy from their seats — af­ter all, it was a school/work night.

The nearly three-hour con­cert be­gan with Ben­nie and the Jets, as John pounded away at the pi­ano and took in a long ap­plause at the song ’s end. He was backed by an equally tal­ented six-mem­ber band at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter and said Tues­day’s show marked an an­niver­sary: He first played in Philadel­phia on Sept. 11, 1970.

“There’s been one com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor through­out (my mu­si­cal) jour­ney — you guys out there,” he said to the fans. “You bought the sin­gles, the al­bums, the eight-track, the cas­sette, the CD, the DVD, the mer­chan­dise — but most of all, you bought the tick­ets to the shows.”

“You have no idea how much I love to play live,” he said. “Ten years ago, if you said I would be do­ing a farewell tour, I would have said you put acid in my drink.”

The Os­car, Grammy and Tony win­ner per­formed two dozen songs, in­clud­ing such clas­sics as Your Song, Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man, Satur­day Night’s Al­right (for Fight­ing ), Can­dle In the Wind and I’m Still Stand­ing.

He wore a black tail­coat blazer with shiny gold lines and red glasses with rhine­stones. The ear­ring in his right ear would put even a fancy wed­ding ring to shame.

John didn’t speak much through­out the night — quickly jump­ing from song to song. He did give a shout-out to Bernie Taupin, his writ­ing part­ner of 50 years who was sit­ting in the au­di­ence. When he sang Border Song, which was cov­ered by Aretha Franklin, John said he wanted to hon­our those who had a pro­found im­pact on his life, in­clud­ing mu­si­cians, politi­cians, ath­letes and ev­ery­day peo­ple. The Queen of Soul, Nel­son Man­dela, Nina Sim one and Stephen Hawk­ing were among the fa­mous faces that ap­peared on the screen. A photo of John and his grand­mother closed the per­for­mance.

The per­former also high­lighted the suc­cess of his El­ton John AIDS Foun­da­tion, say­ing he started the or­ga­ni­za­tion af­ter get­ting sober in 1990 and re­al­iz­ing he “hadn’t done enough to ad­dress the AIDS epi­demic dur­ing its ter­ri­fy­ing rise in the 1980s.”

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have imag­ined how far it would grow,” he said of the foun­da­tion, which John said has raised $400 mil­lion and reached 100 mil­lion peo­ple.

“And if there’s one thing I learned in my life, it’s about the ex­tra­or­di­nary heal­ing power of love and com­pas­sion and car­ing.”

He closed the con­cert with Good­bye to Yel­low Brick Road, this time in a robe and heart-shaped glasses. John took off the robe to re­veal his track­suit, as­cend­ing into a se­cret-like door above the stage. Just like a su­per­hero.

OWEN SWEENEY/InVISIOn

El­ton John per­forms in con­cert dur­ing the open­ing night of his Farewell Yel­low Brick Road World Tour at the PPL Cen­ter in Al­len­town, Pa. The Rocket Man, who kicked off his Farewell to Yel­low Brick Road Tour about 100 km from Philadel­phia on Satur­day, sang like a con­fi­dent, elec­tri­fied pro in the City of Brotherly Love on Tues­day, Sept. 11. It was the sec­ond show on his 300-date tour set to reach five con­ti­nents, stretch­ing into 2021.

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