It’s the primary date of this UK leg of Elton John’s valedictorian Farewell Yellow Brick Road excursion, which started in 2018 and concludes subsequent yr after being behind schedule through the pandemic. As neatly because the profitable payday and a last banquet at the limelight, this prolonged go out provides the megastar a shot at sculpting his legacy. Whichever of the multiverse of countless Eltons takes the highlight on his ultimate tread of the forums – the ludicrous glam-pop monster, the tailor of beautiful fake Americana, the mournful balladeer – might be a gesture against defining how we bear in mind him.
It’s briefly transparent that this night our host might be Elton John, human jukebox. But whilst the setlist unsurprisingly delivers barrage upon barrage of damage hits, it additionally showcases the early album subject matter that has loved a latter-day renaissance. Beginning the night in one thing equivalent portions tuxedo and Pearly King gown, Elton’s within the corporate of outdated buddies, together with Nigel Olsson, his drummer on-and-off since 1969, and mythical percussionist Ray Cooper (an antic, perma-shaded personality with a ground at the level all to himself, Cooper operates like Elton’s Bez). The outdated gang, again in combination for one ultimate activity.
The bangers are daring and shameless, a fiery I’m Still Standing annihilating the reminiscence of the I’m Dill Dandin debacle, whilst The Bitch Is Back and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting are powered through switchblade-sharp riffs higher than any within the Kiss catalogue. I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, in the meantime, is the apotheosis of Elton’s 80s comeback generation – overblown to the threshold of ridiculousness, however bought with such conviction that it really works, fabulously.
Elton revels within the monster hits, the showman defiant within the face of retirement. But there’s a glow of satisfaction as he precedes a stirring solo run via Border Song with memories of Aretha Franklin protecting the neo-spiritual that implies the fewer omnipresent, pre-megastardom tracks could also be nearer to his middle. Certainly, he and bandmates appear maximum alive this night scaling the soulful crescendos and southern funk squelch of Levon. And Crocodile Rock may steered extra dancing and giddy singalongs, but it surely’s Tiny Dancer – which fell wanting the Top 40 on unencumber, however belatedly assumed anthem standing after Almost Famous – that will get essentially the most lighters within the air. The slow-build ascent to that weightless refrain is seductive and majestic.
The display isn’t flawless – Cold Heart, with Dua Lipa duetting by way of videoscreen pre-record, feels bizarre and flat; Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word and Candle within the Wind, numbly over-sung, recommend he not possesses the subtlety to alchemically carry the merely lachrymose to one thing affecting.
But this night leaves us with the picture of the unapologetically ridiculous outsider who annexed the mainstream via power of will, the craftsmanlike singer-songwriter who will have coasted on crucial acclaim had the economic leap forward by no means come, and the pop Prospero with an unfailing really feel for the sector’s ear, in the end placing away his magic. Tonight he passes between those roles extra easily than his gown adjustments, happy and triumphant within the contradictions. Remember him this fashion.