For over fifty years, Elton John has been recording hits and touring the world, bringing audiences his wonderful music. But, like all things, it eventually has to come to an end. Not all can continue revolutionizing concert tours like U2, or have the happiness to play 40-song sets like Paul McCartney. That’s not to say Elton John isn’t a performer or on either of their levels. Rather, John has clearly reached a point of contention in his life, finally drug-free and yearning for more time with his young children. So, after nearly three years of waiting since I bought my ticket, Elton John finally made his way to the Barclays Center in my home of Brooklyn, New York for an epic two-and-a-half-hour show filled with hits, deep cuts, and some new material.
There was no opening act on this tour, so John made his way to the stage at 8:05 (great timing considering the official 8:00 start time). After the lights dim and a montage of snippets played over the loudspeaker, I heard “Pinball Wizard” in there somewhere, the opening chords of Bennie and the Jets blare from the speakers like the battle of the bands in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”
The biggest deep cut of the set was “Have Mercy on the Criminal,” a track from “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player.” When introducing the song, John mentioned “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock,” the latter of which he did play, and perhaps adding “Daniel” to the setlist would have enhanced the night. Another unique track played was “Border Song,” which, due to John’s current age, his vocals are limited and as a result, a lot of the soul is sucked from the song.
The middle of the set is a bit uneven, including some classic songs like “Levon” and “Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” but the tempos of “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and “Burn Down The Mission” ran the risk of slowing the concert to a halt. “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” definitely picked up this portion of the concert.
Things pick up once “The B***h is Back” kicks off a quarter of fast tempo songs, and the audience was loving it. You can’t help but dance to “I’m Still Standing,” and we were all “hoppin’ and boppin’” to “Crocodile Rock.” Almost everyone was singing the “la la la la la” refrain, but even louder was the repeated “Saturday’s” during, you guessed it, “Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting.”
The encore opened up with “Cold Heart,” a strange remix of “Sacrifice and Rocketman (I Think It’s Gonna Be A Long, Long Time)” that John recorded with Dua Lipa. He sang the verses before letting a video projection of Dua Lipa play during the chorus. It was just an awkward way to get cheap applause from the younger audience members. But picking up the slack for it was “Your Song,” which is, in my opinion, right up there with “Maybe I’m Amazed” for the best love song ever. John can’t sing nearly as high as he used to, in fact, you can hear it wear down in the middle of his set, resulting in him practically shouting and barking out words, but this version of “Your Song” with his deeper tone is beautiful.
Closing out the show was “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” after which John is taken up on an elevator to a “Truman Show”-like door as he waves his final goodbyes. There’s a finality to the show that felt satisfying and appropriate. No number of “One more song” chants could lure John back out to the stage; this was it, and the crowd knew it.
Elton John is a legend and just seeing him sing these songs that have crossed numerous generations was special. They didn’t flow quite as well as a McCartney concert, which is a shame considering just how long they’ve been playing this set, but it’s a heartfelt goodbye filled with songs from his catalog that will generally satisfy lifelong diehard fans of John and those who just want to see a legend of the music industry on his farewell tour.