Elton John review – human jukebox sculpts a hit-making legacy | Elton John

lIt’s the first date of this UK leg of Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road farewell tour, which started in 2018 and ends next year after being delayed by the pandemic. In addition to the lucrative payday and a final party in the spotlight, this elaborate exit offers the star a chance to shape his legacy. Whichever of the multiverse of infinite Eltons shines the spotlight on his final step on the shelves — the ridiculous glampop monster, the tailor of exquisite faux Americana, the mournful balladeer — will be a gesture to define how we remember him.

It is quickly apparent that our host tonight will be Elton John, human jukebox. But while the setlist unsurprisingly delivers barrage after barrage of hits, it also showcases early album material that has enjoyed a recent renaissance. The evening kicks off in something akin to a tuxedo and Pearly King suit, Elton is in the company of old friends, including Nigel Olsson, his drummer on-and-off since 1969, and legendary percussionist Ray Cooper (an antique , perma-shaded character with one all alone on stage, Cooper operates as Elton’s Bez). The old gang, back together for one last job.

“Seductive and majestic.” Photo: Ben Gibson

The bangers are bold and shameless, a fiery I’m Still Standing that destroys the memory of the I’m Dill Dandin debacle, while The Bitch Is Back and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting are propelled by razor-sharp riffs that are better than any other. in the Kiss catalog. I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, meanwhile, is the apotheosis of Elton’s 1980s comeback era—exaggerated to the edge of ridiculousness, but sold with such conviction that it works brilliantly.

Elton enjoys the monster hits, challenging the showman in light of his retirement. But there’s a blaze of pride as he precedes an exciting solo run by Border Song with memories of Aretha Franklin covering the neo-spiritual, suggesting the less ubiquitous, pre-megastardom tracks might be closer to his heart. lying down. Sure, he and his bandmates seem most alive tonight, scaling Levon’s soulful crescendos and southern funk squelch. And Crocodile Rock could lead to more dancing and dizzying sing-alongs, but it’s Tiny Dancer – who wasn’t in the Top 40 at release, but only got anthem status late after Almost Famous – who gets the most lighters in the air. . The slowly built up climb to that weightless chorus is seductive and majestic.

The show isn’t spotless – Cold Heart, with Dua Lipa duets via video screen pre-record, feels odd and flat; Sorry seems to be the hardest word and Candle in the Wind, sung sedated, suggests he no longer possesses the subtlety to alchemically elevate the simple tear fluid into something poignant.

But tonight leaves us with the image of the unapologetically ridiculous outsider who annexed the mainstream through willpower, the craft singer-songwriter who could have won critical acclaim had the commercial breakthrough never come, and the pop Prospero with an unerring sense of the worldly ear, finally putting away its magic. Tonight he switches between these roles more easily than his costume changes, cheerful and triumphant in the opposites. Remember him this way.

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