Elton John’s daring debut in the United States in 1970 at a local nightclub prompted one critic to declare that the lighthearted young Englishman would go on to become one of rock’s most important stars. It didn’t take long.
In the span of five years, his reputation cemented by a string of hits including “Rocket Man” and “Daniel,” fans packed Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium for two rousing, glitter-adorned concerts. This weekend, John will wrap up the North American leg of his final ballpark tour.
He calls it the right choice.
“I started in Los Angeles at the Troubadour (club) and I want it to end here because it’s a magical place for me,” John said in an interview with The Associated Press. The three-night adventure will take place on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday November 17, 19 and 20.
The final LA concert will stream live on Disney+ starting at 11 p.m. EST Sunday. The three-hour event will open with “Countdown to Elton Live,” which includes an interview with John and shoutouts from celebrities.
John promised more bells and whistles than at other gigs on the tour – but hopefully without “no elephants or giraffes coming on stage”, he said, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the “Lion King “. The Tony-winning hit musical with songs by John and Tim Rice celebrates its 25th anniversary on Broadway this month.
The stadium scene is “huge and fantastic. The videos are beautiful. I like to be surprised, so I’ll be surprised,” John said.
His influence “spans generations, making this final North American leg of his farewell tour a milestone in the record books,” said Ayo Davis, president of Disney Branded Television.
The rock ‘n’ roll giant’s enduring oeuvre includes ‘Your Song’, ‘Tiny Dancer’ and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’. He has won six Grammy Awards, including a Legend Award, and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. His worldwide record sales have exceeded 300 million.
John reaches new audiences through successful collaborations with young artists, including Britney Spears (“Hold Me Closer,” an update of “Tiny Dancer”) and Dua Lipa (“Cold Heart”).
Lipa, Kiki Dee and Brandi Carlile will join him on stage on Sunday, and it’s no coincidence that all of them are women. He’s had rewarding creative relationships with female artists, he said, and all three are “very important singers in my life.”
He and Dee had a hit in 1976 with the bouncy “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and she was with him at his first show in an LA stadium. John is close with Carlile, who joined him for “Simple Things” on his 2021 “The Lockdown Sessions,” and their families vacation together. It’s been a big week for Carlile, who earned seven Grammy nominations on Tuesday.
As for Lipa, “I like him a lot,” John said. He credits their single “Cold Heart” with giving his career a boost and “lifting me into a different stratosphere when it comes to streaming and connecting with young people.”
“I feel modern. I feel happy to work. When you work with a different artist, you always learn something from them, and that’s the whole point,” he said. Her collaboration with Spears, which was suggested by her husband, David Furnish, gave that and something more.
“It was a brilliant idea because after watching the documentaries and all the news footage about her horrible time with her family and guardianship, I wanted her to feel appreciated by music fans again,” said John. the success makes me so happy that she hopefully feels the love of these people.
The Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour kicked off in September 2018 in Pennsylvania with the first of more than 300 scheduled dates worldwide. It was suspended in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic and resumed in 2021 in New Orleans.
In January, John travels to Australia and New Zealand, then to Great Britain and Europe. The tour should end in Sweden next July.
The schedule would be demanding for any performer, but a brilliant and healthy Elton showed no signs of fatigue during an interview last week, hours before a concert in San Diego. Critics noted his vitality: “His unmistakable baritone sounds as powerful and resonant as ever, and his ivory energy remains positively infectious,” Billboard magazine said of his show at the New Jersey stadium last July.
“I’m not tired,” John told AP. “The audience is absolutely amazing. They dress up, it’s like a big party. And so rather than seeing it as a chore…I go on stage every night thinking, ‘What the hell are they doing? are going to wear tonight? What’s going to be the reaction tonight?’ At the stage of my career, it’s just an amazingly rewarding thing that happens.
He was 23 when Robert Hilburn, then music critic for the Los Angeles Times, predicted John’s stardom after Troubadour’s appearance in West Hollywood. Hilburn said John’s performance that August night “was, in almost every way, magnificent” and called his songs (written with lyricist Bernie Taupin) “incredibly original”.
Success followed success. While John describes the stadium gigs of 1975 as the peak of his career at that time, he was not in “the happiest place”. He recalled a dark period of instability (dramatized in the 2019 biopic “Rocketman”) that included an overdose of pills three days before the shows.
Such restlessness is a far cry from her life now, which includes her two sons with Furnish.
“I’m happy, I’m happy,” said John, who is in his third decade of sobriety. “I have a wonderful husband, a wonderful family, wonderful friends, a wonderful career. I have everything a person could want in their life. I have never been happier personally than I am now at 75 .
“If I hadn’t gotten sober, I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t have had the wonderful things that have happened to me since,” he said.
A prominent activist, he shared his name and his good fortune. He created the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which reports raising over $500 million. In 2019, President Emmanuel Macron awarded John France’s highest honor for his contributions to the arts and his efforts to fight HIV/AIDS around the world.
Is the Yellow Brick Road Tour Really Goodbye? “It’s definitely the farewell tour,” he said, although a short-term residency, like Kate Bush’s three weeks at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2014, has its appeal.
“But to be honest with you, when I come off stage in Stockholm next July 8, I’ll be looking forward to having a vacation, I’ll be looking forward to taking a break,” he said. Then it’s back to work on projects already in progress, including “The Devil Wears Prada: The Musical”.
This is to start.
“I’m going to record with other people, and I hope to write an album for myself. So it’s not like I stop doing anything,” John said. “But I don’t travel. Traveling takes me away from my family.
This story was originally published November 15, 2022 12:07 PM.