Concert Review

Concert Review: Saturday Night Was All Right at Elton John's Farewell Show

Elton John performs at Gila River Arena on January 26, 2019.
Elton John performs at Gila River Arena on January 26, 2019. Jim Louvau
Elton John had nothing to prove during his sold-out Gila River Arena show on Saturday, January 26, his last-ever performance in the Phoenix area.

At this Farewell, Yellow Brick Road Tour stop, Sir Elton wanted nothing more than to say farewell to his endearing fans, and he did so in grand fashion, providing a guided two-hour and 45-minute musical journey through his hits.

The farewell tour, which began last September and is planned to run through December 2020, has been dotted with multiple sold-out dates. When finished, it will have covered 15 countries and nearly 300 performances.
He led his band of seven onto the stage dressed in a black jacket with glittering gold detailing and tails, pants, and his trademark oval-shaped glasses.

Not one to ease into his songbook, the Rocket Man began with a rousing rendition of “Benny and the Jets," along with his veteran band of players: drummer Nigel Olsson, guitarist and musical director Davey Johnstone, keyboardist Kim Bullard, bass player Matt Bissonette and percussionists John Mahon and Ray Cooper.


Every song was a greatest hit: “Tiny Dancer”, “Rocket Man”, the dramatic “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” the disco-infused "Philadelphia Freedom,” and “Candle in the Wind” for which he won a Grammy in 1997, and which was played with a video backdrop homage to Marilyn Monroe.

John also threw in some deep cuts to set a balance between popular classics and numbers for his diehard, lifelong fans. The anti-war veteran's ballad “Daniel,” the olive branch plea of “Border Song” (his first song to chart in the U.S.), and the saga of marginalized indigenous people on “Indian Sunset” all dug in deep with emotional pleas through John’s powerful vocals.

click to enlarge Elton John at the keys during his Gila River Arena show. - JIM LOUVAU
Elton John at the keys during his Gila River Arena show.
Jim Louvau
John, 71, shared his reasoning for retirement, stating a desire to spend more time with his husband, David Furnish, and their two sons. He also reserved some words for the fans.

“You people out there, you bought the 45s, the albums, the eight-tracks, the cassettes, the CDs, the merchandise, but most importantly you bought the tickets to the show,” he said. “I would like to say thank you for all those wonderful years of kindness, loyalty, love, and support you have thrown my way. It’s in my soul.”

Some of the more noted footage supporting songs came in a sizzle reel that included his 1995 Academy Award acceptance speech for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” playing at Dodger Stadium, his appearances on The Simpsons and South Park, playing Live Aid, starring in the movie musical Tommy, and even some self-deprecating footage of John falling out of a chair.

John closed out the 22-song set with the nostalgic one-two pop punch of “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” which got the entire packed house to its feet. But the question remained, how do you bid adieu to 18,000-plus Valley friends? Only as Elton John could do, he returned for an encore featuring a dedication in the form of “Your Song” and yes, finally, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.

Setlist:
Bennie and the Jets
All the Girls Love Alice
I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues
Border Song
Tiny Dancer
Philadelphia Freedom
Indian Sunset
Rocket Man
Take Me to the Pilot
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Levon
Candle in the Wind
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Burn Down the Mission
Believe
Daniel
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
The Bitch Is Back
I'm Still Standing
Crocodile Rock
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting

Encore:
Your Song
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
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Mark C. Horn
Contact: Mark C. Horn