On October 4th and 5th respectively, Sir Elton Hercules John played doubleheader concerts at Winnipeg’s Bell MTS Place as part of his two-year sendoff tour entitled Farewell Yellow Brick Road. For a man of his legacy and stature, the NHL arena that hosted 13,000 some people both nights in a row seems like it’s not enough. Nevertheless, people from all generations and backgrounds turned out and the man himself more than made it work.
Courteously, Elton started the show sharply at 8:00, strolling onto stage in the dark and opening with the unmistakable first chords of “Bennie And The Jets”, bedazzled and glitzy in his stage wear as ever. The hits kept rolling along from Elton’s peak 70’s and 80’s runs: “All The Girls Love Alice”, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”, “Border Song”.
In between songs, Elton raised himself from his piano to take in the overwhelming warmth and fervour of the crowd; offering at times retrospective quips of how a few of the voluminous wealth of songs in the evening were put together. When he had said his piece and gathered enough of the audience’s energy to continue, timeless staples such as “Tiny Dancer” and “Philadelphia Freedom” turned an enthusiastic swath of fans into a unified chorus that electrified the entire venue.
The hits and subsequent fanfare continued nearly to 11 pm, carefully switching up the dynamics between “Rocket Man” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and more uptick numbers like “Take Me To The Pilot”. A few songs, like “Levon” were extended out for jam value, with Elton’s vocals sounding crisp and unmistakable even at the tender age of 72 years young.
While the backing band was both glimmering in their own merit musically and perfectly complimentary enough to not outshine Elton’s star, the visuals playing on the stage screens among them seemed to be more of an entity of their own and didn’t make a lot of sense. Outside of this general flaw, the only breaks in the well-established flow were for Elton to embrace the audience, share more of his songwriting stories, touch upon his founding of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and thank his “family” in the crowd that he did not have 10 years prior. For anyone who had seen his biographical film Rocketman earlier this year, the catharsis behind such statements for Elton is entirely understandable.
Finally, the momentum rolled towards a grand climax: “I’m Still Standing” leading it off, “Crocodile Rock” following in tow with a grand, singing unison, and “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” appropriately closing out to an explosion of confetti from the rafters. Of course, the show would not and could not end there, with Elton returning to cap things off for good with “Your Song” amidst a sea of phones and lighters, and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, the bittersweet namesake of the tour. Instead of a fade to black ending as the main set was concluded, Sir Elton stepped onto a track that lifted him behind the stage; the door to the backstage sliding down as the lights went up. It is a fitting gesture to end on, that as the man fades into the background, the music and the memories will carry on.
After half a century in the limelight, Elton John has picked a fine time to go out with a bang and has dedicated himself to delivering the best product possible as the final curtain calls. The stage show, sonically, aesthetically, interactively and the like were as superb and kingly as the man himself. His fans deserved the best and they got it, along with many thanks along the way. All in all, it was a spectacular show, and though it is not possible now to say it would be a pleasure to see him again, it may be possible now after seeing him retire from action to appreciate the size of the footprint he has left.