After playing 234 shows on his grueling farewell world tour, 75-year-old Elton John could be forgiven for going through this. But although there are still 99 dates to go, the fourth best-selling artist of all time certainly showed no signs of weakening in his second gig at Ashton Gate stadium in a week.
It was Elton’s last show in Bristol – he told the 20,000 fans it was his 12th in the city since making his debut 52 years ago – but he performed with as much passion and enthusiasm as if it was his first. He took the stage with his six-piece band at 7 p.m. sharp and played a career-spanning set for more than two and a half hours, stopping only for a quick costume change.
As Elton hit the familiar opening notes of fly-half Bennie and The Jets, the sun finally came out and engulfed the stadium. Fans, some dressed in 70s outfits and many sporting Elton-style goggles and face glitter, jumped out of their seats and didn’t stop dancing and singing until the end.
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After a painful hip injury, Elton is clearly struggling to walk and he spent much of the show sitting in front of his black grand piano, which moved impressively across the stage during the evening. After 52 years, the material is not lacking and the classics follow one another, starting with I Guess That’s Why They Call it The Blues, Tiny Dancer and Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be A Long, Long Time).
For this final tour, the singer even reconstituted his former group. This includes fellow septuagenarians Nigel Olsson on drums, percussionist Ray Cooper and guitarist Davey Johnstone.
Ahead of Border Song, which he dedicated to Aretha Franklin, Elton regaled audiences with stories of his time with the soul legend. He joked that Franklin recorded his song and did a much better job.
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Candle In The Wind saw the band leave the stage to allow Elton to perform solo, then slip away briefly for a quick costume change. Energy levels were also high, and his vigorous piano playing on Burn Down The Mission (his hands shown close-up on giant screens on either side of the stage) made Jerry Lee Lewis look like a kid making his first piano from first year. lesson.
After 90 minutes, the tempo picked up even more as Elton and the band launched into more classics. Sad Songs (Say So Much) was followed by Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word, then Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me gave way to a full-throttle version of The Bitch Is Back.
But the biggest cheers of the night were for the last three songs – I’m Still Standing, Crocodile Rock and Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting – before Elton and the band left the stage.
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Returning in a sequined pink dressing gown and pink heart-shaped glasses, a solo Elton started the encore with an upbeat disco version of Cold Heart that was closer to the Dua Lipa duo than the original. The band then joined him for Your Song, which saw most of the fans put their phone torches on different parts of the stadium which turned into twinkling constellations.
After thanking Bristol audiences from the bottom of their hearts for their loyalty over the years, the band threw everything they had into a mighty Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. At the end, a waving Elton, now in a dark green velvet tracksuit, was lifted up and back through black curtains at the back of the stage, much to surprise and amazement fans.
Elton had left the stadium on his last show in Bristol, but that wasn’t quite the end. A few lucky fans leaving through the Ashton Road exit a few minutes later spotted a private helicopter taking off from Greville Smyth Park opposite and could spot Elton waving as he flew home in time for the News at Ten, another job done.
It felt like a fitting finale to see the original Rocket Man take to the skies of Bristol for the last time. Well done, Elton, that was awesome.