Review: Elton John’s Final U.S. Concert

Time has seen superstars come just as fast as they go, but how many are able to leave on their own accord? After 6 Grammy awards, 2 Oscars, 30+ studio albums, and 60 years of entertainment, November 20th, 2022, marked Sir Elton John’s final concert in America.  Streamed live on Disney+ under the name “Farewell From Dodger Stadium”, we return to the site of perhaps Sir Elton’s biggest concert to complete the U.S. leg of the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. While we remain unsure of what may lie ahead in the studio, it truly felt like the end of an era.

I saw the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour twice live, once in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in February 2019, and again in Oklahoma City in January of 2022. If anything, the tour is one big victory lap. Beginning in late 2018, you’ve got to realize: Sir Elton had his 2019 film, “Rocketman”, an autobiography, a successful radio show, and much, much more right there in his back pocket. A reporter asked Sir Elton if he’d even miss touring. “No,” John replied, “[…] I have had more than enough applause and more than enough love.”

© Disney and its related entities

© Disney and its related entities

We opened the night with a twenty minute documentary of Elton’s career and the original Dodger Stadium show. It saw appearances by President Biden, The Killers, Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Coldplay, and many, many more congratulating Elton on his big night. While it wasn’t anything new or even that interesting, it reminded me of the fluff played before big shows in stadiums. I give it a pass.

Sir Elton has faced criticism of his vocal ability for almost half of his career now. In 1987, he underwent throat surgery and has never sounded quite the same. Easily my favorite live work of his career was released that very same year, “Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra”, the final recording before said vocal surgery. As described in his autobiography, Sir Elton describes his worry of something going wrong. This might be the last time he sings these songs, let alone sing at all. He puts his all into it, knowing something the audience doesn’t, and stretches notes (both vocal and piano) into an intense, heavenly show. I’m proud to say he did the same tonight. This was that Elton from 1987, who, instead of thinking this would be his last performance, knew it was his last performance. He really goes for it, hitting notes in “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer” that he usually ignores to preserve his voice for the rest of the show. His magnificent band, live, was an even better experience in headphones.

Special guest Brandi Carlile took the stage for “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” and paid subtle tribute to George Michael’s legendary version, which I thought was genius. I loved it. Both shows that I saw, one pre-Covid and one post, had noticeably different set-lists. Both should please different types of fans (myself preferring the first), but this show saw an amalgamation of both, which I loved. Re-added and played back to back were my two favorite Sir Elton cuts of all time: “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and “Levon”.

Elton in 2017, courtesy of Raph_PH.

Sir Elton John in 2017, courtesy of Raph_PH.

I’ve been critical of Sir Elton’s recent output, as his “new” singles with Dua Lipa and Britney Spears, which recycle his older hits, come off very lazy to me. Lipa came out during the encore to perform “Cold Heart”, John’s most streamed song in history, and the crowd looked completely confused. Actor Neil Patrick Harris was enjoying himself, though, as he was the only one caught on camera who knew the words. While Sir Elton bringing out Kiki Dee for the lovely “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” was nostalgic and tremendous on paper, the performance was not great (as much as I wanted it to be). His final song of the night, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, was shortened to only one verse and one chorus. A complete misfire, as the entire tour and show are named after this one song- and it will remain his final performance in the U.S.

To wrap up this night of ripe emotions, the show closed with Sir Elton John introducing his husband, David Furnish, and sons Elijah and Zachary, telling the crowd that “this is why” he must leave now. This was a tremendous performance with a few issues that will ultimately cement the legacy of John as one of the most important figures in recent musical history. Someone that has taught the world lesson after lesson of individuality, advocacy, and perseverance.

Thank you, Rocket Man.

Final Review: ★★★★★/5

Writer’s Highlights: Your Song (Live in Australia 1986), Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Levon