NYCB Live at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour
November 16, 2019
Reg Dwight, Captain Fantastic, Rocketman, Elton John—they all put it on the line on a cool Saturday evening in mid-November at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island. The Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour is a 3-year extravaganza and odyssey during which Sir Elton and his fantastic band are criss-crossing the globe to say goodbye to all the fans (young and old, long-time and new) while giving them multiple chances to see the Grammy Award-winning star perform.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer and his band took the stage and delivered a concert for the ages that had the multi-generational audience on its feet, dancing and singing along to the hits. On this night, even though it’s been 50 years since his first release, Empty Sky (DJM Records), John proved over and over that he still has the magic and can hold an audience in the palm of his hand.
Sir Elton Hercules John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in 1947. The English singer, songwriter, pianist and composer has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin since 1967. The songwriting partners have created a canon of songs that have been spread across over 30 studio albums. John, the performer, has sold more than 300 million records and is acknowledged as one of the world's best-selling music artists. During his career he has had more than fifty Top 40 hits, seven consecutive #1 albums in the U.S., 58 Top 40 Billboard singles (27 of which reached the Top 10). Of those 27, four peaked at #2 and nine reached #1.
John is the recipient of five Grammy Awards, five Brit Awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Tony Award, the Kennedy Center Honor and the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 49th on its list of 100 Influential Musicians of the Rock and Roll Era. In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
The Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour is an extreme undertaking. “Extreme” is the perfect to use word when describing Elton John. Nothing he does is understated. The tour is set to last through 2021 and will be comprised of more than 300 shows. It’s one of the longest retirement tours in history. Some might call it The Long Goodbye. The show, its music, composition and the cities it visits are just as much for the fans as it is for the musician. John has decided that he wants to spend more time with his family, but wants to bid farewell to his fans, the people who have made his grand lifestyle possible. During the show, John occasionally paused to address the crowd and spoke of his grateful feelings toward his American fans, his love for New York and his gratitude to his band (led by Musical Director Davey Johnston on guitar, percussionist Ray Cooper and Nigel Olsson on drums) to be able to mount the enormous farewell tour.
John and his band (which also featured bassist Matt Bissonette, keyboardist Kim Bullard and drummer/percussionist John Mahon) performed before a sold-out audience and delivered a show for the ages. Without an opening act, the fans at this sold-out performance were milling about before the show engaging in retail therapy purchasing t-shorts, baseball caps, jackets, posters, keychains, outrageous sunglasses and/or numerous trinkets and memorabilia. The packed venue was abuzz with anticipation.
While many were still out in the hallway surrounding the arena, the concert began and a mini stampede toward the seats ensued when the band delivered the opening notes of “Bennie & The Jets.” The main set was a wonderful boogie-woogie, blues, country, gospel, early rock ’n’ roll-infused trip down memory lane with John as the tour guide, effortlessly taking the audience members on a 2 1/2-hour tour of his “golden” and most productive musical era—the ‘70s with a slight nod to the ‘80s. Highlights, and there were many, of the first ten songs included: “All The Girls Love Alice,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Border Song,” a funky version of “Philadelphia Freedom,” an epic take on the deep cut “Indian Sunset,” “Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)” during which the huge monitor behind the band showed images of the Earth as seen from space, the gospel/funk opus “Take Me to The Pilot” and “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.”
With a catalogue so large and deep, John was able to deliver a fantastic show that also featured the semi-autobiographical “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” (during which the monitors played an amazing cartoon featuring the characters artist Alan Aldridge created for a Captain Fantastic film that never came to fruition), “Levon” (which featured a magnificent jam), “Candle in the Wind” (the homage to the late Marilyn Monroe) and “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.”
When he spoke to the crowd, it was with affection. He thanked virtually everybody in the audience and on stage. He humbly thanked “the best band I’ve ever played with…” He thanked Bernie Taupin, his writing partner with whom he’s worked for over half a century. He mentioned that Taupin hands him lyrics and while trying to imagine the title and lyrics as a film, he sits at the piano and the music come to him. About the process, he said, “We have never, ever written a song in the same room, which is probably why we’ve lasted all these years.” He thanked his husband, David Furnish and their children. He thanked the folks at the Elton John AIDS Foundation. And, finally, he thanked anyone who ever bought an album, a CD, a cassette, an 8-track, a single and most of all those who bought concert tickets or a piece of merchandise. He said, “I’ve had the most incredible life, I’m so lucky and so grateful.”
Elton John has always been known as being a flamboyant performer. The farewell tour performance is a typically flashy Elton John concert. During the evening’s short breaks, the singer switched from one glitzy outfit to another and later in the show played the piano as it motored across the stage while the monitors showed photos and videos detailing highlights of his career.
Other highlights included: “Burn Down The Mission” featuring a video projection that made the piano appear to be on fire, “Daniel” (which the video clip that accompanied it revealed was about a soldier who lost his life during a war), “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” a fiery “The Bitch Is Back” (accompanied by a hilarious video clip featuring dueling drag queens) and the autobiographical “I’m Still Standing.” The main set ended with a rockin’ version of “Crocodile Rock” on which he cued the audience to sing the “La…La La La La La” lyric and a raucous and wild “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”--an apropos tune as this performance was on a Saturday evening--during which the crowd members were drenched in a shower of confetti. The encores were as one would expect: “Your Song”—his first hit and a dreamy version of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” As these songs were played, a montage of John’s career was shown on the screens behind him.
The performance was fantastic, loose, fun and perfectly paced. John’s energy level was quite high and even though his voice has deepened with age, his vocals were strong and powerful. Johnston’s guitar work was stellar. Olsson’s backbeat and the flourishes of Cooper’s percussive accents drove the band.
Toward the end of the show, John summed it up perfectly when he stated, “I will miss you terribly, but I will always keep you in my heart.” From the sound of the cheers the audience members delivered during the standing ovation, the feeling was mutual.
Photos by Mike Perciaccante
Additional Article Contributions by Christine Connallon