“I wish you health and love, prosperity. Be kind to each other, ok, and farewell.” With those words, Elton John concluded the final show of his last U.S. tour Sunday night (Nov. 20) at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium. He ascended to the top of the stage in an elevator and disappeared, leaving behind the thousands of fans wearing bejeweled eyeglasses, the hundreds wrapped in multi-colored feather boas, the dozens in sequined Dodgers outfits and one JoJo Siwa in John’s famous orange-plumed devil’s suit with horns.
To say it’s the end of an era doesn’t begin to do justice to John and what his live shows have meant over the last six decades. Starting with his now-fabled run at Los Angeles Troubadour in 1970 to 52 years later, few solo artists have left as much of a mark on playing live.
Sunday’s show, which was attended by Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, was his seventh at Dodger Stadium, dating back to his now iconic performances in October 1975 when the sparkly Dodger uniform (hence the homages in the audience) made its first appearance, and his 103rd in the Los Angeles area. John noted it was the 271st show of the Farewell Yellow Brick Show outing, which began in 2018.
The sun may have gone down on the last U.S. show, but the tour will continue through July 2023 stopping in Australia, New Zealand and Europe. By October, the show had already grossed more than $660 million from over 250 U.S. shows. By the time the tour ends, it will undoubtedly surpass U2’s 360 Tour to be the second highest grossing tour in Billboard Boxscore history. The only question is if it can capture Ed Sheeran’s The Divide Tour, which earned $776.4 million.
Billboard Boxscore doesn’t span John’s entire touring life, but in the three decades it has been collecting data, John has grossed more than $1.7 billion to make him the highest grossing solo act in the chart’s history.
But the numbers are only part of the story. John has been a consistently magnificent live performer, not ever slowed by drug addiction, health issues, and now, at 75, age. And his final show of his last American tour at Dodger Stadium, showed why we’re unlikely to ever see an artist like him again in our lifetime.
Here are the top highlights from the show:
The extended takes on classics: They’ve been doing it for years, but it’s still striking to hear John and his band stretch out with bold muscularity on such tunes as “Rocket Man,” “Levon” and “Take Me to the Pilot,” lifting the songs far beyond the radio versions. They’ve been playing together for decades and have retained a razor sharpness and blazing musicality, led by John’s pounding piano playing, Nigel Olsson’s precision drumming and Davey Johnstone’s searing guitar work. Somehow, the expanded version of “Levon” turned the song from the pristine, delicate studio take into a bop that had the 50-something, sparkly sweater-wearing man in front of me devising a solo dance worthy of “So You Think You Can Dance” and John dramatically collapsing over his piano by the time it was done.
John’s voice: It’s deeper now and not as sweet and clear as it was during the ‘70s, but the crystal tone has been replaced with a richness that shows off John’s love for the blues. That affinity always informed his playing, but not necessarily his vocals in the early years.
His BFF Brandi Carlile: Carlile was one of three special guests for the show that aired live on Disney + and while it was easy to guess that Kiki Dee and Dua Lipa would be singing their hits with John, Carlile’s song was a surprise. She joined him for “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me,” so famously first turned into a duet by George Michael and John at 1985’s Live Aid. Walking out in a glittery suit of her own (with Rocket and 1 emblazoned on the back), Carlile’s lilting-yet-powerhouse vocals perfectly captured the song’s desperation. However, she couldn’t hide her joy in singing with one of her musical heroes, even giving an adorable fist pump when she left the stage. John came out from the piano to join Dee to deliver a nostalgic rendition of his and Dee’s 1976 classic, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” that finished strong after a timid start, and for his and Lipa’s first performance ever together of their 2021 global hit, “Cold Heart.”
The material: With a few exceptions (we’re looking at you, 1979’s disco album, Victim of Love), John’s songs have always had a timeless quality to them whether it’s the simple, elegant beauty of “Your Song” or the raucous, barreling “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” or the utter despair of “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” They sound as good and relevant (and gloriously complex) today as they did when they first came out decades ago. John and lyricist Bernie Taupin, who came out to a warm ovation, are simply one of the greatest partnerships in musical history. They’ve been creating together since 1967 and though John will no longer tour, he’s given no indication that he plans to stop making music.
John’s gratitude: He’s always made a point of making sure that audience knows how appreciative he is of their support that has enabled him to have such a remarkable career and life. He made sure to thank the fans one last time in a speech that was also a reminder of just how long he has been part of our lives (and through how many formats). “I became successful first in America, and you bought the singles and the albums and the 8 tracks and cassettes, the CDs, and more importantly you bought the tickets to the shows which I love more than anything, which is to play live,” he said. “So, I want to thank you because you made me. Without America, I wouldn’t be here. So, thank you for all the years of love and generosity and loyalty.” The feeling was clearly mutual. To be clichéd and obvious, how wonderful life has been while Elton John has been in the world.
Elton John Nov. 20 set list:
“Bennie and the Jets”
“I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”
“Have Mercy On The Criminal”
“Take Me To The Pilot”
“Someone Saved My Life Tonight”
“Candle In The Wind”
“Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”
“Burn Down The Mission”
“Sad Songs Say So Much”
“Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”
“Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”
“The Bitch Is Back”
“I’m Still Standing”
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”
“Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”