Elton John Wraps Up Final Chicago Concert 52 Years After First As Farewell Tour Winds Down

Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” American tour winds down, it actually sees the superstar moving from indoor arenas into larger, outdoor stadiums this summer, selling more tickets despite making his way through markets like Chicago for the second or third time.

It’s symbolic of the relevance John continues to experience. Unlike most artists hitting the farewell circuit, he continues to release new material. Even more incredibly, he continues to tally hits.

“Cold Heart,” his 2021 collaboration with Dua Lipa, went to #1 in the U.K., making him the first solo artist there to score a #1 single in six straight decades. In the U.S. it cracked the top 10, giving John 58 top 40 tracks, a total placing him behind only Elvis Presley.

Elton John performs on stage as his ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’ tour winds down. Friday, August 5, 2022 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)
Elton John performs on stage as his ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’ tour winds down. Friday, August 5, … [+] PHOTO BY BARRY BRECHEISEN
John, who for an incredible 30 straight years between 1970 and 1999 scored an American top 40 hit, announced this week the forthcoming release of a single which pits him alongside Britney Spears on her first new music since 2016’s Glory album. “Hold Me Closer,” which borrows a line from “Tiny Dancer,” is available for pre-save now.

“Good evening, Chicago!” said John Friday night, taking the outdoor stage in Chicago. “I’ve always wanted to play Soldier Field so this is a dream come true!”

While neither the setlist nor the staging have much changed since the tour began in 2018, the “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” show remains relentlessly entertaining, even more so as it moves into larger venues tailor-made to showcase the mass sing-alongs John’s biggest hits can’t help but generate.

Elton John and his six piece backing band perform on stage as the ″Farewell Yellow Brick Road″ tour winds down. Friday, August 5, 2022 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)
Elton John and his six piece backing band perform on stage as the “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour … [+] PHOTO BY BARRY BRECHEISEN
One of the biggest reasons is the strength of his six piece backing band. Drummer Nigel Olsson has been in and out of the group since 1970, guitarist/bandleader Davey Johnstone since ‘71. Even the newest member, bassist Matt Bissonette, has been in the fold for 20 years.

“I wanted to add guitar for the Honky Château album,” said John, 75, flashing back to his fifth album and Johnstone’s roots with the group. “He’s my bandleader. And I hate to rehearse. So I’m very grateful to him for that!” he joked on stage of his musical relationship with the guitarist. “I have a soft spot for this band,” John said later. “Because every night, they play their asses off and they make me feel good!”

Nigel Olsson (left) and Davey Johnstone (right) perform on stage with Elton John during the ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’ tour. Friday, August 5, 2022 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)
Nigel Olsson (left) and Davey Johnstone (right) perform on stage with Elton John during the … [+] PHOTO BY BARRY BRECHEISEN
John and company kicked things off in Chicago with “Bennie and the Jets,” two drummers and a percussionist embellishing “Philadelphia Freedom” next.

Chicago’s show marks the end of this leg of the tour, with John’s lengthy farewell resuming in Canada September 7, ultimately wrapping up its U.S. run at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on November 20, with dates in Australia, New Zealand and Europe scheduled into summer of 2023.

Images of icons like Muhammad Ali and Stephen Hawking accompanied photos of early rock and roll stars like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard on a series of three massive video screens during “Border Song,” John sending the track out to soul legend Aretha Franklin who covered it on her 18th album Young, Gifted and Black in 1972. “He is my brother, let us live in peace,” sang John, closing the still relevant track.

Elton John performs on stage as his ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’ tour winds down. Friday, August 5, 2022 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)
Elton John performs on stage as his ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’ tour winds down. Friday, August 5, … [+] PHOTO BY BARRY BRECHEISEN
Johnstone dipped and soared, sprinkling in slide guitar during a starry interlude midway through “Rocket Man,” John dropping an almost scat like vocal as the band stretched out.

“One of my favorite songs that Bernie and I have ever written” is how John described “Someone Saved my Life Tonight,” from 1975’s Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy, summing up a musical collaboration with lyricist and songwriter Bernie Taupin that has roots dating back to 1967. Percussionist Ray Cooper moved from drums to timpani for the song’s climactic ending, the crowd roaring in approval.

Scenes from the 2019 John biopic Rocketman ran above the stage as the pianist slowed things down momentarily with “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” A brilliantly paced set, the band came roaring back in rollicking fashion, heading for encore with a rocking four song suite in “The Bitch is Back,” “I’m Still Standing,” “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (right) poses with wife Amy Eshleman (left) prior to a performance by Elton John. Friday, August 5, 2022 outside Soldier Field in Chicago, IL (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (right) poses with wife Amy Eshleman (left) prior to a performance by … [+] PHOTO BY BARRY BRECHEISEN
While some artists in their 70s are forced to slow the pace of their faster fare, John picked it up Friday night, “Crocodile Rock” perhaps the best example of the high bar still set.

It’s hard to overstate the number of hits John keeps in his back pocket, “Your Song” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” at the ready as he set to finish what stands right now as his final ever live performance in the Windy City (52 years after his first in November of 1970 at the 3,875 seat Auditorium Theatre).

“My sons are here tonight and they are the reason I don’t want to tour anymore. I just want to be with them, OK?” said John to the nearly 60,000 fans in attendance, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot one day removed from her 60th birthday. “I love to play live more than anything else. And I can see all of you dressed up!” he said, staring out across the field from staging in the stadium’s north end zone, the Chicago skyline sparkling behind him. “I want to wish you love, happiness and health. Be kind to each other,” the star advised in the show’s final moments. “Thank you for all the love you’ve given me. And goodbye.”

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