Elton John’s farewell tour made a stop in DC for two nights at Capital One Arena. I was beyond thrilled to be able to attend night one: Friday, September 21st.
These sorts of events sell out so quickly, only leaving resale tickets and scalpers to not even make you question yourself as you spend more than double the original price just to be able to go. Your only real chance at going to shows/concerts with big names anymore is presales.
Typically you can almost always expect 2 or 3 presales minimum. An artist presale, venue presale, american express cardholder presale… etc. You must find a way to get in on one and be ready to rapidly go through the motions to secure your purchase. Take it from me, an absolute concert junkie.
Now onto the show…
Upon arrival at the arena, expect to walk an extended distance to get to your nosebleed seats. It’s the same at any other gigantic venue.
The crowd energy before the show seemed to be quite tame. I, however, could not stop my anxious and excited leg shaking. Elton’s music has always been a part of my life and I watched his Muppet Show episode countless times growing up.
Most people only filed in maybe 10 minutes before the show, perhaps seeking the commemorative farewell yellow brick road merch. My mom purchased the main display shirt with Elton looking off into the distance of the yellow brick road like he was exiting, one of the many allusions to the end of his touring that occurred around the show.
The lights went dark as the prerecorded instrumental section of Elton’s cover of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” played over the speakers. The band entered from stage left and took their positions as EJ strolled in stage right and proved the sheer star power he instills in so many.
Starting off the night was a rousing rendition of “Bennie and the Jets”. The jazzy piano flourishes were grand and the light show illuminated the whole building. I expected the crowd singalong to be a little more powerful to one of the catchiest hooks ever (EJ is responsible for quite a few songs of the same nature!).
After the second or third number Elton mentioned he was feeling a little weak and told the crowd to “bare with him” as he ate a candy bar to re balance his blood sugar levels. What felt like a somewhat uneasy moment had no effect on the rest of the jaw dropping show.
“Tiny Dancer” was played fifth, and it was the song I was looking most forward to hearing. My parents made me fall in love with the movie “Almost Famous” when I began writing about music for my high school newspaper. The famous bus scene will always have a special place in my heart. I could’ve easily seen the song being an easy crowdpleaser to end the night on and yet it was played ridiculously early. That’s Elton John for you.
Hits. Hits. Hits. EJ rocked through “Philadelphia Freedom”, “Rocket Man”, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” and an emotional performance of “Levon” accompanied by a tearjerker video on the stage backdrop (my two favorites of the night were the video for this song and “Tiny Dancer”).
“Candle in the Wind” slowed things down a bit and you could truly feel the powerful voice EJ still has to this day. You feel every note he hits with meaning, regardless of the bad sound mix (muddy vocals and everything other instrument being too loud and distorted) that could’ve ruined some concerts.
Elton then exited the stage as his band launched into the thirteenth song and epic jam “Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”. Davey Johnstone’s guitar cut through and sounded as incendiary as ever and Nigel Olson’s solid pounding drums kept the backbeat the whole night. Also worth noting was the guy everyone had so much fun watching – Ray Cooper – he was delightfully energetic playing every percussion instrument imaginable and took the crowd by storm as he really kept the show going.
Other highlight songs were “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” and “Daniel”.
“Crocodile Rock” – was the biggest singalong of the night (LAAAAA LAAA LAA LAA LAA LAAA) and “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” – the crowd energizing dance number, ended the pre-encore show.
The crowd roared for more and EJ and band promptly returned to the stage ready to give everyone two more emotional bombshell performances of songs they know and love.”Your Song” is undoubtedly one of the greatest love songs of all time and it cannot be overstated how brilliant the partnership of EJ’s longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin is. If the song hit anyone as hard as it did emotionally for me that night, it would be hard to ever top.
EJ went through many wild wardrobe changes throughout the night and frankly looked incredible in every different style he came out in. He changed one last time into the track suit blazed with his initials in sequins that could be seen in the tour promo photo and on most of the merch for sale. Lanching into “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” he thanked everyone for all the years of music and love as his piano moved across the stage once again on its movable track.
At the end of the show he stood and bowed before standing on a platform that took him backward before the backdrop opened and he was whisked away backstage. People afterwards noted how the ending felt as if he died. Weird perhaps, but what other way could Elton have left the stage? Certainly not conventionally being the legend he is.
What was most amazing about the whole show was Elton’s personal touch and how truly grateful he was to have had his music career and the fan support to go along with it. Elton John’s music will continue to live on.