by Julian Spivey
Elton John brought his Farewell Yellow Brick Road retirement tour to Tulsa’s BOK Center on Saturday, Feb. 9 with a night filled with almost three hours of greatest hits and fan-favorites. It was truly a magical night of music for longtime Elton John fans, many saying goodbye to the legend.
Elton John was in a gracious and loving mood celebrating his beloved fans as much throughout the night as they were celebrating him. On multiple occasions he thanked them for their love over the last half century of incredible music and you could tell this night, as I’m sure every single night on this long farewell tour – that’s really in its early stages – he’s enjoying himself thoroughly.
Elton John began his show with the fan-favorite 1973 hit “Bennie and the Jets” and the night never slowed down from there.
While the show was filled with numerous greatest hits that all fans know by heart, he also managed to throw in some album cuts that are personal to him and you could tell not everybody in the audience recognized, but unlike many other shows were fans take the time to go to the bathroom or concessions they remained in their seats and enamored by these performances. One such performance was “Burn Down the Mission” from Elton’s 1970 Country and Western tinged album Tumbleweed Connection. The incredibly theatrical “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” with his first of two costume changes of the night and rolling fog throughout the stage was another of these great album cut performances during the show.
The great thing about a legacy artist like Elton John, especially during a farewell tour is you’re going to get so many great songs and performances thrown at you in rapid succession that there’s not going to be any downtime or lagging moments in the show and that was obvious from the start.
When you’re getting classics like “Tiny Dancer” and “Rocket Man” within the first handful of songs on the setlist you know you’re going to be in for a truly special show.
Elton John took some time in the middle of the show to explain how three simple words completely turned around his life when he was going through some rough times in the late ‘80s and those words were “I need help.” He sought out that help, got sober and it led to great things like the formation of his AIDS charity that has done so much to help those with the disease. He thanked the audience for their support of the charity and performed the song “Believe,” which he wrote about the cause.
One of my favorite performances of the evening was of the 1971 hit “Levon,” which included a very extended and rocking instrumental solo at the end featuring Elton’s always incredibly piano playing and a fantastic guitar solo by Davey Johnstone, who’s been with Elton’s band for nearly 50 years.
Other truly great performances – although, let’s be honest, they all really were – included “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” “Sad Songs (Say So Much),” “Take Me to the Pilot,” “Daniel,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and the beautiful “Candle in the Wind.”
Elton John finished his set with a terrific one-two punch of “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” which had the entire sold-out crowd on their feet and dancing.
Elton then left the stage, for his final costume change, before coming out for an incredible encore dressed in a blue kimono. The encore was my favorite part of the entire show, as it so often is with all-time great superstar musicians saving their biggest and often most beloved hits for the end. Elton began the encore solo on piano and performed his very first hit song from 1970 “Your Song,” which has always been my favorite song of his. It was so beautiful I’m frankly surprised that I didn’t cry during the performance. Elton then fittingly performed “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” with the entire band to a deserving standing ovation before dropping his kimono to reveal his retirement tracksuit with his name embroidered on the back and getting upon one of those stairlift type contraptions that help older people get upstairs and riding away into the sunset or rather his yellow brick road. It was such a great way to end an incredible experience and night of wonderful music.