Elton John, rock’s Captain Fantastic, figuratively did go from the end of the world to your town over the course of five years and more than 330 shows, 22 countries, and spanning a pandemic since the launch of his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” Sept. 8, 2018, in front of 8,983 fans at Allentown, Pennsylvania’s PPL Center.
His final concert took place July 8 at Tele2 Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, the last of a run of rescheduled shows that stretched his tour routing one final time after what was originally expected to be his final farewell June 25 at Glastonbury Festival in his home of England.
In the course of one mammoth tour, Sir Elton broke box office records – not just his own, but the all-time top tour gross previously held by Ed Sheeran. By the time he’s done, the “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour will have sold more than 6.04 million tickets and grossed more than $893 million (exact tallies won’t be available until sometime after the tour finale in Stockholm).
John and his band – guitarist and music director Davey Johnstone, drummer Nigel Olsson, percussionists Ray Cooper and John Mahon, keyboardist Kim Bullard and bassist Matt Bissonette – are reaching the finish line of a truly epic victory lap, complete with all the drama, emotions, stumbles and recoveries that only Elton John can deliver with such aplomb.
The tour was seemingly running along without a hitch until March 7, 2020 – a sold-out concert at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta, South Australia – after which “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” was forced, as was virtually the entire global concert machinery, to shut down in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tour’s strength was already more than evident. Just weeks prior to the shutdown, Sir Elton appeared in Beverly Hills, California, to accept his Pollstar Award for 2019’s Major Tour of the Year, having grossed $212 million over the second year of what was at the time expected to be a three-year tour.
“To have a career as long as I have, you have to have a bit of talent and you have to have people who think behind the scenes, like all you people out there tonight,” John said to the gathering. “You’re the people who arrange for your artist to be on tour, you book them and advise them. I’ve had such great advice and that’s why I’ve lasted so long, I think,” John added, thanking longtime agent Howard Rose and tour promoter AEG Presents.
At the time, he couldn’t have known that his touring career would be extended by another two full years, thanks to COVID. After some rescheduling fits and starts, John returned to the trek Jan. 19, 2022, at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. COVID was not fully in the rearview for Elton and his band, as his initial return hiccupped with positive tests. But soon enough, the juggernaut was back at full steam.
A North American arena leg was followed by an extensive run through European arenas and stadiums, then a return to the States for a final leg beginning July 15, 2022, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. This time, “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” took Elton though stadiums and included sold-out, two-night plays at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey; Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts; Rogers Centre in Toronto; Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California; Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington; BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia; Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona; and culminating in a historic triple-play at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles Nov. 17, 19 and 20 that was livestreamed globally on the Disney+ streaming channel and can still be viewed.
Los Angeles, of course, looms large in Sir Elton’s historical lore and bookended his touring career in the U.S. Fifty-two years earlier, the soon-to-be Rocketman launched his career as a star in the States, thanks to three nights at L.A.’s Troubadour.
Though touring data isn’t available between 1970 and Elton’s first appearance in Pollstar’s box office records in 1982, the retiring superstar’s numbers are nothing short of astonishing, grossing more than $2 billion and selling more than 22 million tickets over 1,720 shows reported.
John wrapped his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” finale in the UK in equally gargantuan fashion. The BBC reports a Glastonbury crowd of some 120,000 descended upon the Pyramid Stage to see him perform one last time – maybe. One to always leave his fans wanting more, Elton remarked the show “may be” his final performance in Britain.
It may not be merely a tease.
Davey Johnstone told Pollstar last year that while “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” will mark the end of the road for their collaboration, which began when John invited Johnstone to help record Madman Across The Water, there was little doubt that John will continue creating in some fashion.
“For me, music goes on forever. Elton and I are not touring again,” Johnstone said with finality. “But I’m sure he’ll do other stuff; maybe he will always record. He’ll always write. There may be things that we’ll do after this whole touring thing is over.”