Tim de LiSLe GiG of The week

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - FILM -

Madi­son Square Gar­den, New York

Every­where you look in pop mu­sic, some­one is say­ing good­bye. For Soft Cell, this took the form of a sin­gle Lon­don show. For Sir El­ton John, it means a world tour, span­ning 300 nights. The Farewell Yel­low Brick Road tour in­cludes a lap of hon­our round Bri­tain next sum­mer, then an­other be­fore Christ­mas – Christ­mas 2020, that is. At 71, El­ton is so des­per­ate to spend more time with his fam­ily that he’s go­ing to leave the stage in three years flat.

He has quit tour­ing be­fore, back in 1977, only to re­turn two years later. He clearly adores his young sons, but he loves per­form­ing too. He’s like a friend who solemnly as­sures you she won’t touch a cig­a­rette after her 40th birth­day, when she’s 37.

In show­biz, re­tir­ing is not so much a state­ment of in­tent as an ex­cuse for a party. This tour fea­tures El­ton’s fa­mil­iar band and some­thing like his usual set list, but he goes to town with the vi­su­als and the rem­i­nis­cences, turn­ing the Yel­low Brick Road into Mem­ory Lane.

For a tubby sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian sit­ting on a stool, he cer­tainly knows how to catch the eye. After ar­riv­ing as a posh Pearly King in a gem­en­crusted tail­coat, he squeezes into a suit made of pale pink silk, like the bomber jacket on the cover of Good­bye Yel­low Brick Road. Of the 24 tracks he plays, six come from that al­bum, which may be his best.

The set, de­signed by Stu­fish in Lon­don and built by Tait in Penn­syl­va­nia, de­ploys a gi­ant pic­ture frame with high­lights from El­ton’s CV carved into it, from John Lennon, who shared this stage with him in 1974, to Billy El­liot. The ef­fect is cheesy but charm­ing. The pi­ano, a Yamaha grand, sits there as ever, stage right – un­til, with El­ton still play­ing, it slides over to stage left. The driver­less car has been over­taken by the driver­less pi­ano.

On the screen, con­ven­tional close­ups al­ter­nate with bright ideas. For Croc­o­dile Rock, El­ton’s old cos­tumes reap­pear, worn by gig­gling fans. For Can­dle In The Wind, there’s footage of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, pout­ing, flirt­ing, then sud­denly be­set with sad­ness. Princess Diana isn’t men­tioned, but she is on many peo­ple’s minds.

El­ton keeps paus­ing to re­flect, lu­cidly, as be­fits a man now work­ing on his mem­oirs. He re­lives the mo­ment in 1990 when

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