Photos and review by Bill Bungard
The masterful pianist, singer, composer and contemporary musical icon Sir Elton John brought his retirement tour “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” for two sold out shows that attracted a total of 38,000 fans on Sept. 17 and Sept. 18 at the Tacoma Dome.
The 72-year-old transcendent musical genius has been making cherished and beloved music for more than 50 years, making him one of the best-selling music artists with 30-plus albums, more than 50 hit songs and multiple consecutive #1 albums. He announced his retirement from touring in January 2018 to raise and spend time with his children, which would start after a three-year worldwide tour of more than 300 performances.
I have been professionally photographing music for the Tacoma Weekly for more than seven years, and was elated when I found myself in front of the stage shooting the first song from this legendary artist. “Bennie and the Jets” is one of my lifelong favorites and got to see Elton perform is life from just 12 feet away. With class and flare, he was immaculately dressed in a rhinestone and pearl encrusted tail coat, ruffled shirt, lowing hanging strand of pearls, diamond crusted earrings and sunglasses – not as flamboyant as years gone by but stunning nonetheless. Sitting behind his piano performing his high energy mega hit, he took time to give us photographers the opportunity to take much-coveted images by turning and acknowledging us the way that only time-tested professionals do. Definitely a bucket list experience for this photographer – after all, it was Elton!
Elton said he had played with many great musicians but stated that this was his best band. The six-piece band surrounding the loved singer on his piano resonated an orchestra sound with three percussionists, bass, guitar and keys. Many of them have performed with Elton for decades: Nigel Olsson on drums (1969), Davey Johnstone guitar (1971), Ray Cooper percussion (1973), John Mahon percussion (1997), and also newcomers Kim Bullard on keys (10 years) and Matt Bissonette on bass (seven years).
With the assistance of this band, the journey began for the evening. In the recent movie release “Rocket Man,” Elton’s songs depict the relevance and meaning in his life journey. I caught myself going on my own journey of my life and reminiscing through the years when I was rocking out to his music or drifting to his ballads as a preteen, teen, young adult and now – what I was doing, where I was and what I was going through. I personally believe that Elton’s music is embedded in all the fans, attached to a life of memories and marking time.
Elton John spoke humbly to the sold out arena stating that in 1990, he decided to either die or get help. He got help and earlier this year posted a picture of his 29-year sobriety coin.
After he sobered up, he created the Elton John AIDS Foundation
and watched it blossom into what it is now.
Talking about his gratefulness for his consistent fans buying his 45s, 8 tracks, albums and tickets to his performances, a somewhat choked up Elton said, “I’ve had enough applause to last 10 million lifetimes. I have a family now. I love you. Thank you for ever thing. God bless.”
John performed for nearly three hours, captivating his audience with 25 songs that reverberated throughout the T-Dome. It was magical that Elton, drenched in sweat, seemed momentarily to be tired but was fueled by the applause and connection with his fans and with exuberance performed with more echoing depth and resilient energy as the night progressed.