Elton John, the 74-year-old singer, donned a baby blue suit with a picture of a bedazzled cat on the back of the blazer as he stood on the stage of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on March 2. The Brooklyn performance is one stop on his final tour, “Farewell Yellow Brick Road.” He sat at the piano repeating the lyrics, “I’m still standing,” while the audience chanted “yeah, yeah, yeah” back to him.
When you’re standing before the legend that is Sir Elton Hercules John, the chorus of his 1983 hit “I’m Still Standing” isn’t merely a catchy refrain — it’s an anthem. The 5-foot-7-inch man is still standing after 4,000 performances in over 80 countries in a career spanning six decades. And he is 30 years sober to boot. He is still standing, married and a father after years of society telling him neither of those were options for him as a gay man rising to stardom in the ’70s. And to that we sing “yeah, yeah, yeah.”
John began his American career in 1970 at the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles. Now, he is finishing off the “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour, which started in 2018 before it was delayed because of the pandemic. The tour is set to end on July 8, 2023 in Stockholm.
John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” includes tributes to artists such as Marylin Monroe — to whom John dedicated his hit song “Candle in the Wind” — and Aretha Franklin. He also performed his usual hits like “Crocodile Rock” and “Bennie and the Jets.”
The set list provides a sometimes playful, sometimes somber variety in tone. Every song, no matter the subject matter, elicited strong reactions from the audience such as clapping to the rhythm, singing along or swaying to the music.
It isn’t just John’s presence that lights up the stage while he performs — it’s his passion. With every stroke of the piano and every note of his song, John exudes love for his art, which he has been practicing since he was three years old when he surprised his family by playing Émile Waldteufel’s “The Skater’s Waltz” by ear.
What made John’s performance more special still was his band. Most of his band members had white hair and all of them looked older than 60. Guitarist David William Logan Johnstone — better known by fans as “Davey” — has played next to John since 1971. Nigel Olsson has been with John since 1970. It was clear that everyone on stage shared their love for John’s music.
Another one of John’s percussionists, Ray Cooper, left an especially lasting impression. With his tiny black sunglasses, eccentric excitement and a lively tamborine, Cooper stood out despite being positioned all the way in the back of the stage.
Being able to see Elton John live today seems unbelievable. While he may not be waltzing from one side of the stage to another in a very heavy, very feathered costume or jumping up and down while he hits the keys of his piano, John’s concerts have not lost their magic. All John needs is his passion, his piano and his voice. In that order. The big shiny glasses, the bedazzled jacket and the videos playing on a large screen behind him are just a bonus.