Elton John isn’t all that far into his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour. But while the tour is doing big box office business and getting rave reviews, a three-year worldwide trek ahead means there will be changes along the way.
“This is only the first run of this tour, so every few months it’s going to change as far as a few songs here, a few songs there,” guitarist and musical director Davey Johnstone tells Billboard. “We’ll add things that were big in different territories. ’Sacrifice’ was a big song, No. 1, in England, so we’ll do that in England and Europe when we finally get there. ‘Skyline Pigeon’ was a massive hit in South America, God knows why. So will do that down there. There are certain other territories that have favorites, also, so we’ll be mindful of those as (the tour) goes on.”
It’s likely, however, that the bulk of the show will remain intact, filled with John’s nearly five decades of hits with some select favorite album tracks. “There is no right version” of the setlist, Johnstone says. “You can’t please everybody, that’s the bottom line. We know that if we don’t play ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ or ‘Daniel’ or ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,’ there’ll probably be a riot. There’s so many songs you have to do because people love them, and if we don’t they’ll go away not very pleased. On the other hand there’s the hardcore fans who think that the tour should be all deep cuts and stuff, which is…unrealistic. You’ve just got to go with your heart and do the most popular songs with a few twists here and there to make it the show it is.”
Johnstone says he full understands why John is saying farewell now — at least to the road. “This has been an abnormal career for rock ‘n’ roll,” he explains. “There’s only ever been us and the Stones. U2 are creeping up on us, although we’ve probably got 10 years on them, and the Stones have 10 years on us. We’ve always been a hard touring band, a hard working band, and that’s allowed him to become a mega star the world over. But you can’t do that forever. Nobody can.” But Johnstone says farewell may not necessarily be forever.
“I know that when we finish this three-year monster we’ll be done with touring,” he predicts. “But at the same time there’s a sneaking feeling there might be a one-off here and there that we’ll play. We’ll do a festival or we’ll do this or that. Guys like us don’t retire. This is really not a short-term thing for us. It’s never been, like, in, make a lot of money, get out. It’s always been, ‘OK, what’s gonna happen now? What do we do next?'”