Review: Elton John bids a nostalgic farewell to Levi’s Stadium

Elton John performs “Tiny Dancer” during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Saturday, October 8, 2022. Photo: Nic Coury/Special for The Chronicle

While some artists herald their arrival with pot fires, dancers or light shows, Elton John captures a stadium’s attention with a single lonely piano chord – the G Major 7 overture to “Bennie and the Jets”.

That simple sound echoed through the cavernous home of the 49ers, issuing the first of many roars of recognition. For more than two hours on Saturday, October 8, Sir Elton John and his longtime band bridged the distant past, the recent past and the present at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, in the first of a race from two nights.

Dubbed “Farewell Yellow Brick Road: The Final Tour”, John is in the middle of the second half of the North American leg. In 2018 he announced he was stepping back from touring to spend more time with his children. He performed in Oakland and San Jose in January 2019 in that first round of final stoppages, but the planned three-year farewell was cut short by COVID-19 and a hip injury in 2021.

By the time he bows out in Stockholm in July 2023, John’s children with husband David Furnish – Zachary, 11 and Elijah, 9 – may be too cool to hang out with him.

Elton Johnduring his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour” at Levi’s Stadium. Photo: Nic Coury/Special for The Chronicle

But it is highly unlikely. At 75, Elton John has shown he still has the chops and showmanship. He drew in a multi-generational crowd — mostly baby boomers, but plenty of Gen Xers, Yers, and Zers too — for catchy, nostalgic songs on fan favorites like “Crocodile Rock,” “Rocket Man” and “Don’t Rock.” t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

During the ’80s hit, “I’m Still Standing,” a dizzying montage of clips played across three giant video screens showing John’s wide pop cultural footprint, from being knighted by the Queen, to he performed at the famous Live Aid concert, his involvement in Disney’s “The Lion King” and television appearances from “Soul Train” to “The Simpsons” and “South Park”.

It was heartwarming to see John joined by three of his longest serving band mates, Nigel Olsson (drums), Davey Johnstone (bandleader and guitarist) and the very entertaining Ray Cooper (percussion) on stage. Johnstone took center stage a few times with cataclysmic guitar solos on “Have Mercy on the Criminal” and “Levon.” During “Take Me to the Pilot” and the “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” show, Cooper attacked congas and timpani like a bald, bespectacled animal from “The Muppet Show.” These guys are built for the stadium and John is lucky to have them.

Elton John and his band during his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour” at Levi’s Stadium. Photo: Nic Coury/Special for The Chronicle

Saturday’s gig mixed his colossal classic rock hits with familiar soft rockers and some deep cuts. Due to his large catalog, what John doesn’t play becomes almost as important as what he does. The karaoke classic “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” was missed throughout the tour, while the sweet “Daniel” made the setlist during the 2019 Bay Area shows but was noticeably absent on Saturday.

John was in a playful mood that evening, occasionally slamming the top of his piano for cheerful emphasis, stopping frequently to greet and point out the fans who all dressed up, and extending “Rocket Man” and ” Levon” to highlight his piano mastery and band chemistry. His voice has lost its upper register (think the “la-la-la-la” part of “Crocodile Rock”), but still carries a majestic, comforting presence.

And although his movements seemed limited – likely a combination of his 2021 hip injury, his genetics and his rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle – the more theatrical elements of the night were complemented by a backup video.

Elton John performs “Bennie and The Jets” during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. on Saturday, October 8, 2022. Photo: Nic Coury/Special for The Chronicle

During songs such as “Philadelphia Freedom,” video screens showed lithe dancers and ordinary civilians frolicking to the tunes like a ’90s Gap commercial. Other times, the videos added context and offered socio-political commentary. , notably on “Burn Down the Mission”, “Border Song” and “Have Mercy on the Criminal”. “Tiny Dancer” was also accompanied by a moving and solemn film of a young woman (the “LA lady” of the song) navigating the streets to usher the contents of a star-colored urn to its final destination. .

The main set’s final four songs formed a satisfying, on-your-feet bouquet of crowd favorites: “The Bitch is Back,” “I’m Still Standing,” “Crocodile Rock,” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” . complete with an explosion of confetti. During encore time, the crowd perked up as the clubby bass kicked off 2021’s “Cold Heart,” a duet with Dua Lipa (which appeared in both animated and video form), which has again testified to its longevity and lasting influence.

A fan of Elton John’s ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour’ at Levi’s Stadium. Photo: Nic Coury/Special for The Chronicle

After performing a beautiful, heartfelt “Your Song,” John took a moment to address the nearly sold-out crowd, thanking them for dressing up (“It makes me so happy”) and showing up. one last time.

“I was successful for the first time in America, so I owe everything to this country,” John said. “It has been an incredible journey for me. Thank you for the love, kindness and caring. I wouldn’t be sitting here without you. I wish you love, health, happiness. Good night.”

On that sentimental note, John and his band performed “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” before walking off stage and disappearing into the night.

A fan awaits the start of Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday, October 8, 2022. Photo: Nic Coury/Special for The Chronicle

Is this really the last farewell? Rock fans have walked this (yellow brick) road with him before, and so many other bands have cashed in their chips to return to the lucrative live table, hoping for another payday.

My bet: After Sunday, I think it will be a very long time before we see the Rocket Man on tour in the Bay Area again.

“Farewell Yellow Brick Road: The Last Tour” by Elton John: 8 p.m. Sunday, October 9. $48 to $243. Levi’s Stadium, 4900 Marie P. DeBartolo Way, Santa Clara. www.eltonjohn.com

A large crowd watches Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour” at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Saturday, October 8, 2022. Photo: Nic Coury/Special for The Chronicle

set list

Bennie and the Jets

Philadelphia Liberty

Guess that’s why they call it the blues

border song

little dancer

have mercy on the criminal

The Rocket Man

Take me to the pilot

Someone saved my life tonight

Levon

candle in the wind

A Friend’s Funeral / Love Lies Bleeding

Burn the mission

Sad songs (Say so much)

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Don’t let the sun go down on me

The female dog is back

I’m still standing

crocodile rock

Saturday night is good for fighting

Bis:

Cold Heart (PNAU remix)

Your song

goodbye yellow brick road

Quit music:

hold me close



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