Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour
Madison Square Garden
March 5, 2019
Review by David Chiu
(photo by John Russo)
Judging by the sold-out crowd inside the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” this past Tuesday, it wasn’t just another Elton John concert. If you had been living under a rock for the last year, you know that John announced that he is retiring from touring for good, a journey that began 50 years ago that took him all over the world.
Hence the Rocket Man’s long goodbye in the form of the Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, which made a stop at Madison Square Garden for the first of two sold-out nights. And for three hours, John and his fine band gave the audience members a lot of bang for their buck. It was a hits-filled evening tilted mostly towards his Seventies triumphs: “Tiny Dancer,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” “Levon,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” etc., etc., etc., (John remarked/joked that in preparing the set list, he had to make some omissions, otherwise, the show would’ve been six hours); perhaps the lesser-known deep cuts performed were the bouncy “All the Girls Love Alice,” the Western-tinged “Indian Sunset” from the Madman Across the Water album.
There were a few of his famous hits from the Eighties such as the rocking “I’m Still Standing,” the lovely “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” and a revamped soulful and bluesy version of “Sad Songs (Say So Much).” The only recent number in the set was 1995’s inspirational “Believe” from the Made in England album, which was performed after John’s remarks about AIDS and his foundation in support of the fight against the disease. The encore, of course, consisted John’s signature tune “Your Song” and fittingly “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” John was still in top and charismatic form behind the keys, while his band, including three members from his classic era performing outfit—guitarist Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olson, and Ray Cooper—provided rock solid support.
Aside from the musical moments (a dazzling rendition of the epic “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” and a tender performance of “Border Song,” from which John paid tribute to Aretha Franklin), there were also poignant ones in his remarks between songs: about his love for playing to audiences and why it was time for him to stop touring. It didn’t feel like a canned speech, but rather a genuine and heartfelt thank you to the fans. The night—and the tour—represented the end of an era, but the fortunately the music will continue to live on.
Set list (courtesy of www.setlist.fm)
Bennie and the Jets
All the Girls Love Alice
I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
Take Me to the Pilot
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
(with “Saturday Night’s… more )
Candle in the Wind
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Burn Down the Mission
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
The Bitch Is Back
I’m Still Standing
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road