REVIEW: Elton John is “still standing” on Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour in L.A.

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LOS ANGELES — Elton John has entertained fans for more than 50 years, but he’s calling it a day with his final trek across the U.S., the Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour. Following sold-out shows at both Oakland’s Oracle Arena and The SAP Center in San Jose, the all-time great made his way to Los Angeles for shows at Staples Center and The Forum. At the third of four Staples Center shows on Jan. 25, he made a heartfelt effort to criss-cross his extensive discography in a three-hours-long performance. Elton John actually apologized early in the set; saying he hoped to be playing everyone’s favorite songs, but realizing he may have left some out.

Sir Elton sure made a point to go out in style. Clad in his signature oversize glasses, a glittery jacket emblazoned with his initials, he walked onto the stage and sat down behind his grand piano. His hands fluttering across the keys, moving so fast that even with the help of numerous screens, his fingers were hard to follow. With the opening notes of “Bennie and the Jets” John’s voice commanded the room. He told a story about Aretha Franklin, the first artist to cover one of his songs (“Border Song”), with whom he shares a birthday. He continued to scatter stories throughout the show. Some were funny. Oftentimes, they were bittersweet. The tour is a trip down memory lane, after all.

Photos from throughout his career scrolled behind him during “Rocket Man,” on which his emotive voice sounded better than ever. Percussionists Nigel Olsson and Ray Cooper, who have toured with Elton John from his early years, added stylistic flourishes in the form of bongos, tambourines and chimes. His backing band did a fine job of building a rich, full sound behind him.

And while the show could have been a big spectacle, surprisingly it was mostly subdued. Aside from mimicking  a funeral during “Funeral for a Friend/Loves Lies Bleeding,” the production was minimalistic, with the piano holding court. The latter half of his set bounced from hit to hit with fan favorites including “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” “The Bitch is Back,” “I’m Still Standing,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and “Crocodile Rock,”  during which John egged on the crowd from the lip of the stage.

The encore consisted of “Your Song” and the titular “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” John asked fans to join in on a singalong and the arena erupted. As the song ended, he slowly walked across the stage and sat down in a chair that lifted him upward against a backdrop filled with stars, and through a door through which he made his exit.

Setlist (according to Setlist.fm):

  1. Bennie and the Jets
  2. All the Girls Love Alice
  3. I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
  4. Border Song
  5. Tiny Dancer
  6. Philadelphia Freedom
  7. Indian Sunset
  8. Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
  9. Take Me to the Pilot
  10. Someone Saved My Life Tonight
  11. Levon
  12. Candle in the Wind
  13. Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
  14. Burn Down the Mission
  15. Believe
  16. Daniel
  17. Sad Songs (Say So Much)
  18. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
  19. The Bitch Is Back
  20. I’m Still Standing
  21. Crocodile Rock
  22. Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
  23. Your Song
  24. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Follow writer Rachel Goodman at Twitter.com/xneverwherex and Instagram.com/xneverwherex.

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