It’s the end of an era. Sir Elton John will perform for the last time in the United States as he performs his ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Tour’ farewell performance at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles tonight. Luckily, those of us who aren’t in Los Angeles and don’t have tickets can still be part of the epic event as the concert will be streamed live on Disney+.
Elton John’s music is timeless and spans generations. Elton John’s first performance in the United States was over 50 years ago at the Troubadour in Los Angeles in August 1970. But the concert that really put Elton John on the map and marked the explosion of his career took place on October 25, 1975, at Dodger Stadium. It’s fitting that he ends his touring career where it all really began.
Cross the generations
I spoke with the show’s producers, Ben Winston and Gabe Turner, about the possibility of sharing the event live around the world and capturing it for posterity.
Elton John is before my time, and yet I grew up with Elton John. I can say the same thing about the Beatles, or Elvis, or other music from my parents’ generation. But what set Elton apart was that it wasn’t just classic hits that were played on repeat – Elton John was always in the Top 40 hits throughout the 80s and 90s, and that’s always the case. 50 years after “Your Song” became Elton John’s first Top 40 song, Cold Heart’s remix featuring Dua Lipa reached No. 32 in 2021.
Hits like “Little Jeanie”, “Blue Eyes”, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”, “I’m Still Standing” and “Empty Garden” helped define the 80s. As I have told Ben and Gabe, however, it was the “Greatest Hits” album that became the anthem of my time in the Air Force as my good friend Joe Donaldson and I played it on repeat throughout from our time at Denver Technical School and on our adventures across England once we deployed to RAF Upper Heyford.
“I totally agree. I think it crosses so many generations,” Ben said. six or seven years before I was even born, and yet I still know it and love it.”
He explained: “You go to these Elton shows – and we’ve seen a lot of them to get ready for Sunday – and the crowd is phenomenal in the age difference. You’ll see people who were there in 1975, but you’ll also see seven- and eight-year-olds in the front row, singing every word of every song, and you’ll be like, “That’s a phenomenal range!” But, ultimately, his music is timeless.
Live broadcast of a once in a lifetime event
There’s definitely something to be said for attending an event like this in person. There is an energy to a live performance and a sense of nostalgia that can only truly be felt by those in the stadium.
That said, those of us watching the live-streamed concert on Disney+ will have the best seats in the house and an objectively better viewing experience. We will have the advantage of multiple cameras and the ability to view the show from different angles and zoom in or out as needed. Ben and Gabe tell me they use 23 cameras, plus helicopter cameras, plus drones to make sure the live stream is as amazing as it should be.
I mentioned how it’s a bucket list item for me to attend an NFL Super Bowl in person for the experience, but that I enjoy watching the game from the comfort of my own living room with the different camera angles, replays and zoom in.
When you’re at an event like this, you get the view you get, whether it’s the front row or the 15e upper deck row. As Ben and Gabe put together a production like this, there is choreography. They don’t just put a camera on a tripod in the 5e line and offering a static view of the concert. Elton John needs to be able to just do his show and perform as it happens, but Ben and Gabe and everyone involved in producing the live stream for Disney+ need to be intimately familiar with how the show will be performed so that they can orchestrate the best camera angles.
“I think our job is to make sure the way we cut those cameras and the choices we make reflect the music and change and continue to evolve as we go. What we can’t do is make the show feel stagnant,” Ben shared. “I think you have to shoot each song in a different style and in a different way.”
“It’s a different thing to be there and be a part of it,” Gabe explained. “But, I think you’re right that we have the advantage of multiple cameras and the ability to try to follow the emotion and create a piece that does Elton justice. It’s a really good challenge for us and we’re really excited to do it.
When the dust settles
After the performance is over, Ben and Gabe will spend some time browsing through the footage to be edited. The live stream will exist as is for a few weeks, and it will capture the moment in time, but there may be camera or angle decisions made in real time that could have been better.
Ben said to me, “We’ll see him again and we’ll take the best of the best. There may be moments that our visionary mixer or technical director just didn’t hear, and we’ll have time to make it absolutely perfect so it’s a story moment rather than a live edit.
“Elton John Live: Farewell from Dodger Stadium” airs live tonight on Disney+ starting at 11:00 p.m. EST/8:00 p.m. PT. A pre-show, “Countdown to Elton Live” will begin 30 minutes earlier and feature interviews with Elton John and his husband, as well as video clips from friends and colleagues. If you don’t see it live, the concert will be available on demand on Disney+.