Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour Is the Highest-Grossing Concert Tour of All Time
It is the first trek in Billboard Boxscore history to gross $800 million.
In January 2018, Elton John announced his impending retirement from touring, but only after a worldwide, multi-year farewell tour to say goodbye. He kicked off the Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour in September of that year and began a record-breaking run, though it isn’t over yet.
According to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore, the Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour has grossed $817.9 million across 278 shows so far — more than any tour in Boxscore history. Bypassing Ed Sheeran’s The Divide Tour ($776.4 million), it is the first tour in Billboard’s archives to cross the $800 million benchmark.
The Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour was promoted by AEG Presents, with select local partners in certain international markets.
Sheeran set the record in 2019 toward the end of his 258-show run, replacing U2’s The 360 Tour ($736.4 million). Both of those tours went far and wide, playing six and five continents, respectively, and spending most, if not all, of their time in stadiums. Conversely, John spent 2018-20 and the first quarter of 2022 in arenas in North America, Europe, and Oceania, before advancing to stadiums in each continent for the tour’s final year.
That advancement paid off. John’s first three North American legs combined to $268.2 million over 116 shows. His stadium run from July – Nov. 2022 brought in $222.1 million, or 83% of his arena grosses, in just 33 shows.
Similarly, his European stadium outgrossed his arena leg, $69.2 million to $49.9 million, despite playing 12 fewer shows. And most recently, his average per-show gross in Australia and New Zealand swelled from $2.5 million in 2019-20 in arenas to $5.1 million in stadiums.
In total, the January ’23 Oceania leg grossed $40.9 million and sold 242,000 tickets. Combined with updated North American grosses to account for previously unreported platinum lifts, the Farewell tour’s total revenue surges passed $800 million, with 51 European shows still to play through July 8.
While the tour’s first couple years in arenas certainly laid the foundation for John to scale the all-time ranking, it took three full legs in North America and Europe to hit the all-time top 40, at $217.8 million after 108 shows. His return to the U.S. and Canada in the Fall of 2019 lifted the tour’s total to $292.3 million, moving up to No. 20.
The following Oceania leg from Nov. 2019 – March 2020 (it was mercifully scheduled to end days before the global lockdown began) brought the gross up to $385.4 million, lifting to No. 13. John’s post-COVID North American arena run added $100 million, climbing into the all-time top 10 at No. 6 with $485.7 million. The stadium run in Europe brought him to No. 4, followed by a nudge to No. 2 with North American shows, finally ascending to the all-time crown with a brief run in Oceania from Jan. 8-24.
Sorting by tickets sold, John still has a way to go on the all-time ranking. The Farewell Yellow Brick Road has sold 5.3 million tickets, ranked behind Sheeran and U2’s previous record-holders, in addition to The Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge Tour (1994-95), Coldplay’s A Head Full of Dreams Tour (2016-17) and Guns N’ Roses’ Not in This Lifetime… Tour (2016-19). Sheeran’s Divide Tour still stands atop the all-time attendance chart with 8.9 million tickets.
While it’s next-to-impossible for John to catch up to the tickets-sold record with just one leg of shows, his European dates will allow him to pass Coldplay and GNR, presumably moving into fourth place on the all-time list. Returning to “intimate” arenas for the final leg, John could be setting his sights on another unprecedented benchmark, sure to approach and likely to cross $900 million by his final performance.
Dating back to reports for John’s Ice on Fire Tour (1986), and including his share of co-headline runs with Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Tina Turner, and, many times over, Billy Joel, John has grossed $1.863 billion and sold 19.9 million tickets over 1,573 reported shows. That’s the highest career gross and attendance for a solo artist in Boxscore history, having passed Bruce Springsteen and Madonna while on this tour. On Billboard’s 2019 recap of the top 125 artists of all time, John finished at No. 3, behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.