When Elton John opened the final show of his historic, three-night Dodger Stadium run Nov. 20 to close the door on his North American touring career, he noted he couldn’t be going out as a happier man after decades of sobriety, raising a family and having had a No. 1 chart hit in 2021 with “Cold Heart,” his duet with Dua Lipa.
Dodger Stadium and Los Angeles hold special places in Elton John’s long history – he thanked former Los Angeles Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn for the review of his August, 1970 shows at the Troubadour (“Thank God it’s still here”) that ignited John’s career in the U.S. and made note that the first stadium appearance, in 1975, came at the lowest point of his life.
It’s all come full circule for John, 47 years after he took the stage at Dodger Stadium in a sequined-studded baseball uniform as the world’s biggest pop star, looking out at an audience decked out in oversized glasses, feather boas, sequins, plenty of glitter and a plethora of replicas of that “No. 1” uniform.
The final concert was livestreamed across the globe by Disney+ as “Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium,” a first for the streamer and, coincidentally, taking place at the same time parent Disney Co. was rocking Hollywood with the announcement former CEO Bob Iger was returning to the position with the departure of Bob Chopak.
The news apparently broke as celebrity guests, including Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Taron Egerton, Bernie Taupin, Jude Law, Billie Jean King, H.E.R, Donatella Versace, Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance, Miles Teller, Jude Law, Heidi Klum, Joni Mitchell, JoJo Siwa, Neil Patrick Harris, Christopher Lloyd, Connie Britton and more were making their way down a pre-show red carpet.
The backstage drama had zero effect on the ebullient crowd inside the stadium just a few miles up the hill from Hollywood. Generations of fans danced, sang and vamped in their Elton-inspired finery in the stands and on the field in front of the massive stage placed in the same outfield spot Elton performed upon in 1975.
Official attendance figures haven’t been released but Dodger Stadium seats about 56,000 and, with the exception of the box seat sections ringing the infield, it appeared to be packed as were folding chairs set up on the field – for three shows, attendance of approximately 160,000 seems a reasonable estimate.
Streaming figures were also not immediately available. However, Disney+ is reportedly one of the most popular streaming services with more than 150 million subscribers. In addition to the live stream, “Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium” is now available for on-demand viewing for an indefinite period.
Fans in the stadium and watching on TV were treated to peak Elton John.
From the opening chords of “Bennie and the Jets” through selections that drew heavily from his early albums from his eponymous debut in 1970 to 1975’s Rock of the Westies, the setlist ranged from his first single, “Border Song,” through “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” –performed with special guest Kiki Dee – with whom he had the original hit.
He covered the massive hits, including “Tiny Dancer,” “Levon,” “Rocket Man,” “The Bitch Is Back,” “Crocodile Rock,” “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “I’m Still Standing,” and other favorites including “Take Me To The Pilot,” “Burn Down The Mission,” “Someone Saved My Live Tonight,” and even a live rarity, “Have Mercy On The Criminal.” He kicked off his encore by bringing out Dua Lipa for a rendition of their No. 1 hit scored last year, “Cold Heart.”
Interestingly, Elton did not dig into his film or theatrical music catalog, though he would not have been faulted for pulling out fitting titles like “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” or “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.”
One production highlight was a faux thunderstorm, with roiling clouds, thunder, lightning and rain effects across the stadium, providing cover for a costume change (gone were the “ruby slippers” – red sequined tennis shoes – and flaming jacket) and leading into “Funeral For a Friend / Loves Lies Bleeding.” At other times, overhead shots of Dodger Stadium bathed in blue light rendered an image of a backlit sapphire against the darkness of surrounding Elysian Park.
An emotional highlight of the night was when Elton stopped to introduce his band, including guitarist Davey Johnstone (who doubles as musical director), drummers Nigel Olsson and Ray Cooper, percussionist John Mahone, bassist Matt Bissonette and keyboardist Kim Bullard. He also paid homage to those were lost, including original bassist Dee Murray, before dedicating “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” to their memory. In the second verse, Brandi Carlile appeared and joined Elton to perform the rest of the song as the duet made famous with the late George Michael.
After that, the mood lightened considerably as John took his audience through some of his more rocking numbers, including “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” which he reprised with duet partner Kiki Dee. The main set ended with “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” replete with a stadium-wide confetti drop and fireworks.
Sir Elton returned for his encore in a sartorial nod to that iconic Dodgers uniform of yore, a sequined silver and blue, Dodgers-themed bathrobe and baseball cap, talked again about the importance of L.A. and America to his career before dedicating “Your Song” to the city. He thanked his audience for coming out in costume and explained the reason for his departure from the touring life.
“I want to spend time with my family because I’ll be 76 next year, he said. “I want to bring them out and show you why I’m retiring.”
He embraced and kissed his husband, David Furnish, while his two sons, 11-year-old Zachary and 9-year-old Elijah, wearing matching Dodgers jackets that read “Elton” on the back, waved gleefully at the crowd.
John then broke into “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” the inevitable final song that gave the “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour its name.
When that last song ended, John shed the robe and exposed a red and green tracksuit – evocative of his attire on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album cover – and rode a small, clear elevator into an opening in the backdrop. He could then be seen on a giant video screen walking down a yellow brick road animation, fading into the distance.
The “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour began in September 2018 with the first of the 300-plus scheduled dates. It was suspended in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic and resumed in 2021. But it had already topped Pollstar’s Top 100 Worldwide Tours chart for 2019 by the time the world paused and is poised to again be a contender in 2022.
While box office reports are still coming in, the “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour has reported 164 shows to Pollstar, with more than 3.6 million tickets sold and grossing more than $511 million.
Shows remaining to be reported include the final western North American stadium leg that began Oct. 8 and includes multiples at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona; Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California; Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas; Petco Park in San Diego; Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas; and BC Place in Vancouver, Canada.
In January, John heads to Australia and New Zealand, then moves on to Britain and Europe. He’s set to conclude in Sweden in July, though he’s made it clear he is only done traveling, not making music.
Nov. 20 Set List
Benny and the Jets
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
Have Mercy on the Criminal
Take Me to the Pilot
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Candle in the Wind
Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding
Burn Down The Mission
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (with Brandi Carlile)
The Bitch Is Back
I’m Still Standing
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (with Kiki Dee)
Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting
Cold Heart (with Dua Lipa)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road