Saturday night was an alright time to take in one of the most successful acts of the past 40 years, as Sir Elton John brought his sequins and band to Harveys Outdoor Arena, part of his “Final Farewell Tour,” for a 21-song set that spanned his entire career.
In a black and red sequin robe with an intricate red rose embroidered on the back, John took to the stage and ripped into a glammed-out version of “The Bitch Is Back” off his album “Caribou.” Setting the tone right off the bat for a set full of hits, he ticked off two of his biggest hits, “Bennie and the Jets,” with its stop-start rhythm buckling everyone down into the groove, and “Candle In The Wind,” which held the crowd in a poignant gaze.
Elton John came of age in the early 1970s during the singer-songwriter era of pop music and one of the defining albums of that era and his career was 1971’s “Madman Across the Water.” Tipping his cap to the album, the pianist rolled through “Levon,” with a beefed-up middle coda that showed off his pounding solo ability, and a straight-forward “Tiny Dancer” that had the whole arena singing the iconic chorus.
In addition to John’s brilliant hits, most of which were written by lyricist Bernie Taupin (if you doubt how integral Taupin is to John’s career, 1970’s “Elton John” features Taupin pictured on the back cover with the rest of the band), the man brought his trademark stage flare to Tahoe. In between songs, he frequently shot up from his bench banging his chest or pumping his fists to the crowd to keep it close to him. He even made a couple extended trips to the sides of the stage to glad hand with fans.
Though neither his antics nor the crowd had the same pizazz as his ’70s heydey, the audience disappointingly stayed mostly seated during “Tiny Dancer.” John never let the crowd go long without giving them a shot of energy.
John flourished over the keys with grace and relative dexterity, but the strong suit of his playing has always been about power and rhythm and his best example of those qualities was a fierce expanded solo intro to “Rocket Man” that he battered away with noticeable emotion. His skills are still intact and a camera positioned just over the keys of his piano gave the audience great insight into how well those fingers still work. Considering music nowadays is heavily influenced by sampling and electronica, it was a thrill to remember how fun piano-driven rock and roll is and watch John go to town on his piano on songs like “Burn Down the Mission” and “Hey Ahab.”
He ended his set appropriately with an energetic “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” that got everyone out of their seats and asking for more. They got more in the form of the campy “Crocodile Rock,” which ended in the crowd drowning the stage in a chorus of “ahhs.”
At 68, John still puts on one hell of a solid show, and if indeed this tour is in fact his last big go-round for touring, Saturday’s show was a grand farewell.
- Elton John
Harveys Outdoor Arena, Aug. 8, 2015
“The Bitch Is Back”
“Bennie and the Jets”
“Candle in the Wind”
“Philadelphia Freedom (Elton John Band song)”
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
“Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)”
“I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues”
“Burn Down the Mission”
“Sad Songs (Say So Much)”
“Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”
“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”
“I’m Still Standing”
“Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n Roll)”
“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”
- Photos by Kurt E. Johnson. To see more of Kurt’s Lake Tahoe concert images, visit his site HERE
I grew up in LA in the 70’s and have seen hundreds of concerts, including Elton John several times, but this was truly the concert of a lifetime. Certainly a very grand farewell. But, Garrett, they performed even more of the classics than you have listed including: Sacrifice, Don’t go Breaking My Heart, Amoreena, I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That and All the Girls Love Alice (and possibly…Nikita?)
Farewell to touring Sir Elton and thank you for all the years of great music and memories. Best wished to you as you watch your two little boys grow up.