What do you think when you think of Elton John? Rocketman, 70s icon, compassionate person with amazing talent? Well, all of those descriptors were true at the first night of Elton’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour in Manchester.
From the moment he flicked back his pearl-encrusted white tails to sit down and tease the very first chord of Bennie and the Jets, Elton John commanded the stage of the AO Arena in Manchester, packed full of sequined superfans, not a free seat in the house. The crowd was peppered with fans young, old and everything in between, all there for the same reason, and all happy as Larry.
As for Elton’s performance, nobody does it better. Backed by his five-strong band, including original drummer Nigel Olsson, old friend and long-time collaborator Ray Cooper, and wonderful guitarist Davey Johnstone, the Rocketman’s still got it. Belting out crowd-pleasers including Crocodile Rock, Tiny Dancer and an emotional delve into his debut hit from 1970, Your Song, Elton shows that he’s 76-years-young, playing for almost two hours 30 minutes with only a couple of two minute breaks.
Elton gave air to some of the more obscure of his back catalogue, which was refreshing and even inspiring for burgeoning fans. Songs such as Mercy and Border Song saw the light of day, with the latter being dedicated to the late queen of soul Aretha Franklin, who covered the song in 1972.
Elton spoke of her effect on him and the friendship they developed, with a moving visual display of inspirational figures playing though the performance, including Martin Luther King Jr being projected onto young black men, and of course, famous friend of Elton, Princess Diana making an appearance as the inspiration for another young person.
Elton also performed Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, brought to prominence with the live performance he did with his good friend George Michael at the legendary Live Aid concert back in 1985, nodding to the late half of Wham!, and in turn a salute to absent friends.
Of course, Elton wouldn’t be Elton without the fabulous outfits, and although he may have toned down since the 70s, he still looked as fabulous as ever. The trio of outfits of the night consisted firstly of a wonderful white suit jacket with tails, encrusted with pearls and sparkles and beautifully embroidered with blooming purple flowers, over a back shirt with a huge pearl and jewel piece across his chest forming a cat’s face, and of course his signature statement glasses in green.
Jewels were a huge theme of the night, with his second outfit being a pale pink and mint blazer, again completely encrusted, and the pink glasses to match. He then returned to the stage for the encore of Cold Heart, his collaboration with Dua Lipa, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road to say a last farewell, in a fabulous fuchsia pink robe with gold jewelled cats on the back, and the pink heart-shaped glasses to match.
On his ascent offstage on what can only be described as a standing stair lift, off into the distance, Elton stripped off the robe to reveal a full navy blue satin tracksuit, with his name blaring in sparkles – and we wouldn’t expect anything less.
Before playing the epic gig out, Elton John professed his love for Manchester citing our rich musical culture and wonderful crowds. He said:
It’s always remained the same, up here you’re amazing. You’re all amazing.
Ever since I came to Manchester early on in my life I always loved this town, there’s something special about it. I want to thank you all for your love and support over the last 50 years, and I’ll never forget you.
You’re in my head and in my soul, you are very very special people. I am blown away by your kindness and your loyalty, thank you.”
And we thank you, Elton – it really was a fond farewell.
Elton John plays two more Manchester dates at the AO Arena on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd June, and you can find any remaining tickets here.