No Donald Duck suit, no Mozart wig, not too many bells and whistles. Elton John has for decades toured Australia replete with all the grand trappings of pomp and glory, but the core of it has remained the man with his voice, his piano and the lyrics of co-writer Bernie Taupin. His Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour is all of this, with an emphasis on taking stock of things making it so much more. It’s the stuff of Hollywood.
This final opening night in Perth is to be an emotional one from the get-go as a mash-up of the hits gets the Stars On 45 treatment over the PA before the rhythmic keyboard thud of Benny And The Jets sounds out with suitable drama, finding Sir Elton John in a gold-trimmed tuxedo and matching electric boots astride his Yamaha grand piano.
The band are immediately consummate (and impeccably dressed) right around the turns through All The Girls Love Alice, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues and the moving soul of Philadelphia Freedom. Indian Sunrise captures John’s mastery of the ivories, set against the percussive might of longtime drummer Nigel Olsson, but the early part of the set is highlighted by the spine-tingling Tiny Dancer and an extended Rocket Man, seemingly a song for the times once again, with a beautiful acoustic guitar segue matched by John’s piano and the full band building to a rousing finish.
Take Me To The Pilot and Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word are given faithful renderings, but it is Someone Saved My Life Tonight, which John characterises as a personal favourite of his co-writes with Taupin, that seems to capture emotionally where this particular piano man sits with everything on his grand farewell. The man is in good humour, but clearly sentimental in terms of what this tour is all about. A heartfelt, driving Levon – with an instrumental reference to the Beatles’ Day Tripper – captures this, but it’s truly on display with Candle In The Wind. As footage of Marilyn Monroe showcases on the video screens, it seems this song is as poignant to John as it ever was and it’s not the only occasion this evening that he appears emotional.
Emerging after an instrumental interlude in floral suit and pink trousers, John takes the band thorough a dramatic rendering of Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, which showcases a blistering guitar solo by Davey Johnstone. It also serves as a vocal showcase for John, whose voice has weathered the years incredibly well, given the 72-year-old has spent over half a century on the road. A moving run through Daniel truly brings this point home.
The 1984 single Sad Songs (Say So Much), once used as a jingle for Sasson Jeans, shows more grit onstage than it ever did on the airwaves and is the first indication from the audience that Saturday night is indeed alright as they emerge from their seats and onto their feet. They stay that way through Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, The Bitch Is Back and I’m Still Standing, the video screen reeling in the years as the man’s life flashes before our eyes.
Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting and Crocodile Rock bring more energy to that sentiment, before John cuts a solo presence at the piano in a dressing gown literally making Your Song everyone’s. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is the appropriate ending, as Sir Elton John bids farewell and band credits roll, movie-style, on the video screen. It was a pretty good film, but it’s much better in real life.
Elton John will be touring in Australia and New Zealand for the next three months