Forty seven years after he took the stage at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in a sequined-studded baseball uniform as the world’s biggest pop star, Elton John walked on to the same stage on Sunday night wearing a bedazzled Dodgers bathrobe, a uniform more fitting for a 75-year-old man on the verge of retirement.
The crowd of more than 50,000 roared at the moment that came in the final minutes of the final North American concert of a tour John says will be his last.
“I want to spend time with my family because I’ll be 76 next year, he said. “I want to bring them out and show you why I’m retiring.”
He embraced and kissed his husband, David Furnish, while his two sons, 11-year-old Zachary and 9-year-old Elijah, wearing matching Dodgers jackets that read “Elton” on the back, waved gleefully at the crowd.
John then broke into “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” the inevitable final song that gave the “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour its name.
The crowd full of rocket men and rocket women, of blue jean babies and LA ladies, many John’s age but plenty in their 20s and 30s and 40s, swayed and sang along as they had throughout the two-hour show during songs like “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer.” Some wiped away tears.
Many were wearing their own sequins and spangles, sparkling spectacles, top hats, feather boas, and in a few cases, Donald Duck suits, representing stages of John’s 55-year career.
“Thank you all for dressing up,” John said, “it makes me so happy when you wear the most fantastic costumes.”
When that last song ended, John shed the robe and exposed another retirement outfit, a green-and-red tracksuit, and climbed into a small, clear elevator that lifted him into an opening in the backdrop. He could then be seen on a giant video screen walking down a yellow brick road into the distance.
Many others joined John for the occasion.
Kiki Dee took the stage to sing their duet “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
“In 1975, this woman was here with me, and we sang this song,” John said as he brought out Dee. “I asked her to come and recreate that incredible moment.”
John jumped from his usual keyboard spot, grabbed a mic and sang and danced with Dee as his rehearsal piano player Adam Chester pounded the keys in his place.
John played “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” in tribute to the four bandmates who have died during his career, and after the first verse brought on another guest, shouting, “ladies and gentleman, Brandi Carlile!”
The moment was an unspoken tribute to another late collaborator, George Michael, who dueted with John in the same way on the song in 1991.
Carlile, who was central to Joni Mitchell ‘s recent return to the stage, was wearing her own Dodger-themed spangled suit. She belted out her verses and made a “can you believe this?!” face to the crowd as John put his arm around her and the soaked in the applause.
A drum machine pounded as Dua Lipa, in a black dress that contrasted with the sparkles on everyone else, came out for the first of the encores, “Cold Heart,” her 2021 hit with John.
“I can’t tell you how it feels to be 75 years old and to have the No. 1 record around the world,” John said after. “And this was my very first hit, 52 years ago.”
He started playing piano chords and sang, “It’s a little bit funny, this feeling inside,” the opening line to 1970’s “Your Song.”
“That was your song, Los Angeles!” he shouted after.
About two hours earlier, after taking the stage in a tuxedo with sequins that flared into a flame design and opening the concert with “Benny and the Jets,” he explained the significance of the city to his music.
“All right, this is a very special night for me, a very emotional night for me, and it’s been a long journey, and I first came here to America in 1970 to the City of Angels, Los Angeles, and I played a club called the Troubadour.”
The concert, which streamed live on Disney+, was the last of a three-night stand at the stadium (and his 103rd show in the LA area, he told the crowd). The Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour began in September 2018 with the first of the 300-plus scheduled dates. It was suspended in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic and resumed in 2021.
In January, John heads to Australia and New Zealand, then moves on to Britain and Europe. He’s set to conclude in Sweden in July, though he’s made it clear he is only done traveling, not making music.
Many of those backing him up have been in his band from the start, or very near it, including Nigel Olsson, his drummer since 1969, and Davey Johnstone, his guitarist since 1971, who at age 71 stood at the front of the stage and led the band through a ripping version of “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”
John also provided a rare on-stage glimpse of an even more long-running collaborator, the man who wrote most of the words the crowd sang along with all night, lyricist Bernie Taupin.
“We’ve been writing together now since 1967,” John said as he hugged Taupin, who could not have contrasted with his writing partner more with his bald head and plain, earth-toned coat. “We still love each other more than we’ve ever done before.”
Image credits: Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP