Elton John’s voice is one that will ring for ages to come
Image: Ashley Mar.
Almost three years since what was expected to be his final farewell to Sydney, Sir Elton John returned to the stage at Allianz Stadium for the first of two performances at the venue for his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. With the outbreak of COVID-19 cutting the tour short and causing delays, John has returned to Australia one final time for an extravagant send-off that truly captures his illustrious six-decade career.
As John’s band entered the stage, Allianz Stadium erupted with cheers as John made his appearance in a custom Gucci suit capturing the essence of a maestro. No flashy rising from beneath the stage or being lowered from the heavens. John just casually strolled on stage to some 40,000 fans waving to the crowd and engaging with them before taking to his piano and filling the stadium with the striking chords of Bennie and the Jets. A feel-good energy surged throughout the crowd as they jumped to their feet and sang along. That energy didn’t slip throughout the night.
The shows first act was comprised of a selection of hit tracks and fan-favourites. Philadelphia Freedom, expertly showcased the tight synchronicity of John’s band, each talented musicians in their own right, whilst also injecting new life into the song with contemporary and vibrant choreographed visuals. John dedicated Border Song to Aretha Franklin and shared stories of their time spent together, noting her final performance was in New York City for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The song joins Candle In The Wind as the two sole moments throughout the show where we’re treated to just John and the piano, creating emotive and intimate moments within an overall energetic and spirited performance. The sentimentality of these two tracks was also present in Someone Saved My Life Tonight, with John’s powerful and inimitable vocals echoing throughout the stadium. Percussionist Ray Cooper almost steals the show with his captivating and energised performance, with the whole of John’s touring band giving their all on the song.
Of course, Tiny Dancer proved to be a standout moment causing raucous sing-a-longs from the audience and a shared camaraderie as the crowd interacted with one another. It was also made clear in the shows first act that the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour is a visual feast. Have Mercy On the Criminal, a track the musician shared with the audience has not been performed live in quite some time, transported the audience into a sinister red-hued forest, before we were lifted to space for Rocket Man. Another moment where John’s band got to flex their musicianship through soaring melodies and motivating percussion. The track serves as an emotional and triumphant moment within the set, reminding us that John truly is a rocket man; he reached for the stars and will leave behind an unmatched legacy long after he takes his final bow in Stockholm this July.
Having been transported across the stage with his piano during Candle In The Wind to bring act I to a close, John returns to the stage following an outfit change to the booming ring of a gong. The woman seated besides me immediately knew what was to follow and jumped to her feet in cheers. The musician performed a medley of Funeral For A Friend and Love Lies Bleeding, with fans starting to fill the aisles to dance along and get closer to the superstar, before bopping along to Burn Down The Mission and Sad Songs (Say So much). Following the mesmerising Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, John introduced his band to the audience, sharing of their talent “I know they’re gonna be right on the money. They’re shit hot… give them a big Sydney roar.” Throughout the night, each band member had their moment to expertly showcasing their individual musicianship whilst also working cohesively together, never missing a beat.
A personal favourite, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me led towards the shows climax of hits, with John performing seminal classics The Bitch Is Back, I’m Still Standing, Crocodile Rock and Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting. The crowd were firmly on their feet, hands in the air and singing along to every word. An electric energy flowed throughout the venue led by the audiences pure joy and engagement, be that the cheering cries of “yeah, yeah, yeah” on I’m Still Standing, or the almost deafening chorus of “la, la, la’s” on Crocodile Rock. The infectiously positive vibe was hard to shake off, even as John left the stage thanking Sydney for sharing the evening with him. After each song, an energetic John would stand from his piano, bowing, waving and pointing to fans, thanking them and showing genuine appreciation for their support not only tonight, but throughout his entire career.
The night didn’t end there. John returned to the stage one last time, donning a dressing gown over a tracksuit - both custom Gucci. He talks of his time spent in Australia over the years, commenting on its special place within his career, before launching into his 2022 mega-hit, Cold Heart. “I can’t tell you how good it feels to have a hit single at 75” he states, thanking his collaborators Australian dance trio PNAU and pop sensation Dua Lipa as animated visuals of himself and Lipa appear on screen. John pulls on our heartstrings one last time, performing arguably his most well known hit, Your Song. Audience members embrace as they sway back and forth singing along, bringing that sense of togetherness and camaraderie felt during the shows first act full circle. Over two hours into the performance John’s vocals and presence have yet to waiver, instead holding their strength and keeping the audience in the palm of his hand. But as we all know, all good things must come to an end. As John and his band began to play Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, his piano once again began to transport him to the other side of the stage before taking one final bow and following the yellow brick road home.
Having seen the Farewell Yellow Brick Road in Sydney in January 2020, this time around John and his band packed more energy and engagement into the show, portraying a deep sense of gratitude to be able to return to Australia and perform following the uncertainty of the past three years. The tours production and visuals packed a punch, perfectly capturing the vast avenues of the musicians illustrious career and showcasing and referencing iconic moments. But of course, the main focal point of the show is John’s booming vocals. Reaching soaring heights and enhancing lows, John’s mesmerising tones bring his storytelling lyricism to life. His songs are cross-generational, proven by the range of age within the packed out stadiums audience. Whether you discovered him recently through Cold Heart, or have been there since 1970 with Your Song, Elton John’s voice is one that will ring for ages to come.
Elton John's Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour will continue on to Brisbane this weekend, before travelling to New Zealand. Final tickets are on sale now!