Full-throttle Sir Elton isn’t going quietly
LIVE: Elton John (Stadthalle, Vienna) Verdict: Rocket man lifts off
THERE was a moment during his encore of Your Song when Elton John seemed to get swept away by the occasion.
This was the opening night of his mammoth European farewell tour and he had played for 15 minutes short of three hours. Sitting at his Yamaha concert grand, he raised a hand and appeared to wipe away a tear.
You could hardly blame him. It had been an emotional evening, packed with heart-wrenching piano ballads and joyous rock ’n’ roll songs from one of pop’s greatest back catalogues.
Elton, 72, is retiring from touring at the end of next year, but the Rocket Man isn’t exiting the stage quietly. Performing in front of a 66ft-wide electronic screen dubbed ‘the telly’, he told fans Wednesday night’s show in Vienna would be his penultimate gig in the city (he also played there last night). ‘I’ve been touring for 50 years,’ he continued. ‘The most important thing in my musical life is playing to other people and getting a response.’
He tackled the hits full-throttle. He can no longer reach the high notes on Bennie And The Jets, and changed some vocal arrangements accordingly, but he still sang beautifully. Costume changes were minimal.
He mixed crowd-pleasers like Philadelphia Freedom, Candle In The Wind and I’m Still Standing with lesser-known gems. Border Song was prefaced with a story about how Aretha Franklin covered the track in 1970 — ‘a real thrill for two English boys like Bernie Taupin and I’ — while Indian Sunset was accompanied by just the grand piano and stalwart percussionist Ray Cooper. Elton spoke of past addictions — ‘I was ashamed of myself’ — before a moving Believe.
The Bitch Is Back launched a high-octane finale before that encore of Your Song and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
His life story is told on screen this month in the biopic Rocketman. On the stage, he remains an indefatigable showman.
THe Farewell Yellow Brick road tour visits the County Ground, Hove, on June 9 and Cardiff City Stadium on June 15. (eltonjohn.com).
Viennese whirl: elton John