Sir Elton John performing his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour at The Utilita Arena Birmingham on Thursday 8th June 2023.

Review by Kevin Cooper

Elton John is finally hanging up his sparkly outfits and outrageous glasses as he came to the Utilita Arena in Birmingham on Thursday night as part of the very final leg of a farewell tour that he promises is genuinely his last.

His Farewell Yellow Brick Road World Tour has been a long goodbye. Having begun in 2018 and pausing for Covid, it was dry docked again in 2021 for John’s hip replacement. But this packed crowd instantly forgave him the delays as the excitement levels went through the roof.

With the Arena being a sea of colour, sequined costumes and flashing light up glasses, the Rocket Man took to the stage and kicked off the show at his piano with Bennie And The Jets. Staccato and emphatic, the opening notes underlined his first calling as a piano man that saw him elevated into his now larger than life public figure.

Backed by long time compatriots, The Elton John Band, especially Ray Cooper who has been John’s percussionist since 1973, flitting in and out of the band, they delivered a musically dazzling affair, whipping between Philadelphia Freedom, the swelling balladry of I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues to the progressive pop standard of Funeral For A Friend and Love Lies Bleeding with aplomb.

Dedicating Border Song to the late great Aretha Franklin, he shared a story of one of the last conversations that he’d had with the Queen of Soul, who covered the single in the 1971. The last show that she performed was for the Elton John Aids Foundation just six months before she passed.

Stirring song Tiny Dancer followed with video footage on the big screens, showing the high and lows of people’s everyday lives, together with pictures of his own. The bluesy beat of Have Mercy On The Criminal featured a lyrical Mahon xylophone part that vied with Davey Johnstone’s searing electric guitar.

Rocket Man had everyone dancing, and billed as one of his favourite songs, Someone Saved My Life Tonight is that rare thing in his extensive catalogue, a song about himself. Candle In The Wind went big on footage of Marilyn Monroe, before the tempo slowed right down to encourage the biggest sing along ever for the likes of Sad Songs (Say So Much), Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, and as moments of reflection caused John to pay tribute to the friends who have passed away over the years, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me took on another jagged meaning against the backdrop of a farewell tour.

Even in a gig stuffed to the gills with copper bottomed classics, the home straight played like a smash revue, with The Bitch Is Back, I’m Still Standing and Crocodile Rock which had the crowd on their feet dancing. Gasps from the crowd were audible as confetti exploded from the ceiling during Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, which brought the main set to a close.

He came back onto the stage wearing a bejewelled dressing gown to perform the disco version of Cold Heart, as remixed by Pnau and recorded as a duet with Dua Lipa and is his most recent hit, and a late breaking reminder of John’s remarkable commercial virility after all this time. The crowd’s biggest reaction was saved for his first hit, Your Song, showcasing a perfect declaration of love.

There was only one song that John could finish with and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road had everyone on their feet in appreciation as he ascended into his starry sky back drop on a Perspex escalator and departed through a hidden door in the big screen providing an emotional farewell to a true legend of music.

When the road finally ends in Stockholm on 8th July, Farewell Yellow Brick Road will close having broken the record for the highest grossing tour ever, which is some achievement. Now after seven decades in the game, this mammoth final jaunt is finally coming to an end for one of the nation’s most decorated musical exports, and most certainly he deserves his retirement.