(seen at the performance on 16th April 2023).
Who knew when booking on 5th July 2019 that it would be a wait of almost 4 years before the monkey would get to say "Farewell Yellow Brick Road" to the living musical legend that is Sir Elton John.
The man himself acknowledges appreciatively both at the beginning and end of the show the loyalty his fans have shown and his gratitude for our trust in retaining our tickets. His opening promise to reward this is kept in fine style with 2 hours and 20 minutes of non-stop hits.
For those who know, most touring pop concerts re-use much scenery from other artistes. The iconic staircase and lift through the stage are just two which have had longer careers than their performers. Elton John’s set appears custom-made and is perfection.
A vast video screen, with two smaller ones either side is raised high above a two-tier set of platforms for his musicians. The stage itself is curved to allow the lucky folk in the central front three rows to be almost inside it.
Our man is enthroned at a grand piano on a plinth which SPOILER ALERT glides around the stage so that both sides of the arena get a view. For the most part those on the left see the keyboard, the right his singing face, though. SPOILER ENDS.
It’s huge, it’s slick and all the greatest songs are present and correct. “Bennie and the Jets” is the logical starter, and the hits stream with beautifully filmed live and animated accompaniments.
“I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” is an early score for the audience, who appreciate the story and “Border Song” tribute to Aretha Franklin’s bravery which follows.
A dark “Have Mercy on the Criminal” leads into a roaring “Rocket Man.” Compiling the set list, Sir Elton’s crowd-pleasing expertise is full of these song conjunctions, putting just the right moods together in the running order to contrast dark, light, fast, slow, loud and reflective.
“Someone Saved My Life Tonight” was another good example as it led into “Levon.” The monkey couldn’t place the second number in its pre-show research, but as someone sitting nearby said, “you’ll know it when you hear it”... and of course it did.
For those wondering, the absolute greatest are here. “Candle In The Wind” has perfect images of Monroe to accompany a heartfelt tribute.
Another tribute “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me” went out to survivors everywhere, particularly his personal guests that night, while “Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word” explained why “Sad Songs (Say So Much)."
A rollicking “The Bitch Is Back” (fearsome lady scrawling on mirrors in the film above), tipped into the final run-in.
“I’m Still Standing” – which he is, “Crocodile Rock” just needed no explanation, while “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” reminded us how often Elton John’s music makes a point even as it entertains.
Encores “Cold Heart” and “Your Song” had the audience spell-bound. In a final flourish his life was reviewed on screen as we said “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and SPOILER ALERT a dressing-gowned Elton rode a stairlift up and out leaving a final animation of him walking off into the sunset. SPOILER ENDS.
Years of touring and compiling albums come together in the unforgettable. That the monkey has seen and heard one of the greatest living British musician composers of all time live is a memory that will live long. Wishing Sir Elton John a happy retirement from performing, from the monkey in the 22nd row.