The year was 1975. Elton John, backed by a barrage of No. 1 albums and hit singles, hit Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for back-to-back sold-out shows.
The concerts became legendary in pre-viral times, thanks to an electric set from John, then 28, who tickled the ivories and roared into the microphone while dressed in a shimmering Bob Mackie-designed Dodgers uniform, blue sequined baseball cap and oversized white glasses. . John was the first act to perform at the stadium since the Beatles in 1966, and a superstar was born. “In October, 1975, no one was bigger than Elton John. He was like Elvis at the height of his career,” once explained Terry O’Neill, the photographer responsible for the iconic images of the Dodger Stadium shows. “Elton still is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met and he gave his all at those concerts.”
John, now 75, gave Los Angeles his all one last time by closing out a three-show run Sunday night back inside Dodger Stadium, taking a final bow as part of his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour.” The concert marked the legendary entertainer’s final North American tour stop — upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, Farewell Yellow Brick Road kicked off in 2018 and will wrap next July in Sweden — as he looks towards retirement from the road.
In a highly decorated career that spans 50-plus years and every award from Oscars to Grammys, John has been a near constant at stadiums across the globe and he’s said that the farewell will allow him to spend more time with longtime partner David Furnish and their two sons They made an appearance during the show’s encore after fireworks had blasted the sky and guests Dua Lipa, Brandi Carlile and Kiki Dee had joined John for special duets.
Sunday night’s show — performed for a capacity crowd of more than 50,000 guests — might’ve been the last for John but it was a first for Disney+. The streamer mounted its first-ever global live stream by presenting Elton John Live: Farewell from Dodger Stadium, produced by Fulwell 73 and Rocket Entertainment for Disney Branded Television. The three-hour event featured the show in its entirety along with a preshow package that featured some of John’s famous friends.
There were plenty in the crowd, as well. The one that caught the most eyeballs and fielded the selfie requests among the floor seats was Jojo Siwa, decked out in a flame-embroidered yellow-orange Lycra jumpsuit topped by a rhinestone cap with horns, nearly identical to the one Taron Egerton wore when he played John in the biopic Rocketman.
“It’s Elton John’s big night,” Siwa told The Hollywood Reporter before the show, adding that her favorite song of his is “The Bitch Is Back.” “I’m so excited for tonight. I don’t think anybody knows how iconic this performance is actually going to be. This performance is going down in history. It’s going to be unreal.”
Also in attendance were Egerton, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Donatella Versace, HER, Jude Law, Billie Jean King, Joni Mitchell, Kirsten Dunst, John Stamos, Sara Gilbert, Eric McCormack, Neil Patrick Harris, David Burtka, Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance, Bradley Whitford, Connie Britton, Dita Von Teese, Heidi Klum, Jenna Dewan, Lucy Hale, Miles Teller, Sophia Bush, Xochitl Gomez and more. While Siwa was appropriately dressed for the occasion, so were hordes of John devotees, many of whom came dressed in sequins and feather boas, oversized glasses and plenty of sparkle.
The festivities began at 8:15 pm as John took to the stage to open with “Bennie and the Jets” wearing a black tuxedo with tails that was emblazoned with red, blue and silver flames on the lapel and red diamond-encrusted glasses and giant diamond studs in each ear.
“Tonight is a very special night, we are creating history tonight,” John said, in his first remarks at the start of the show between “Philadelphia Freedom” and “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.” “And I’m so glad to see you at Dodger Stadium.”
Judging by the applause and the fact that almost every seat was occupied, everyone was glad to see him, too. “This is a very special, very emotional night for me. It’s been a long journey,” John continued, nodding to an earlier LA performance that predated his Dodger Stadium debut. “I first came here to America in 1970 to the City of Angels and played the Troubadour, which thankfully is still there.”
He credited Los Angeles Times reviewer Robert Hilburn for his rave review that “accelerated my career.” John then launched into “Border Song,” but not before detailing how Aretha Franklin covered the song in a way that floored him and co-writer Bernie Taupin. “It was probably the most exciting thing that happened,” he said, adding how, years later, they were able to perform it together before her death at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City in 2017.
He dedicated the night’s performance to “the lasting genius” of Franklin. It was among the many highlights in his set list that also included “Tiny Dancer,” “Rocket Man,” “Levon,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” “I’m Still Standing,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Sad Songs (Say So Much),” “Crocodile Rock,” “Have Mercy on the Criminal” and “Burn Down the Mission.”
Carlile was the first special guest to take to the stage and she did so dressed in a gray suit with red and blue accents with a No. 1 printed on the back. She joined for a duet on “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” after John had shouted out all of his band members and dedicated the song to those who had died.
Dee, whom John noted was present for his first Dodger Stadium show in 1975, then came out to relive their hit “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” The grand finale — marked by yellow streamers shot into the sky amid a fireworks display — came with a rocking “Saturday Night’s Alright.”
John then disappeared for a few minutes only to reappear during an encore wearing a custom robe with Dodgers printed on the back and shimmering from every stitch. Dua Lipa joined him for a performance of their hit dance track “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix).”
As the night inched closer to the final curtain call, John took a moment to revel in the accomplishment and pay tribute to the fans who helped sustain his five decades-long career while also showing off the full life that awaits him on the other side.
“It’s been 50 years of touring the United States, across all 50 states. This is my seventh concert here at Dodger Stadium. Tonight is the 271st show of the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour and my 103rd show in the Los Angeles area,” he detailed before bringing out his final VIPs.
“I would also like to introduce somebody, if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. Come on out, Mr. Bernie Taupin,” he said as his longtime collaborator stepped out on the stage, greeted by a warm embrace and a kiss on the cheek. “We’ve been writing together since 1967. We still love each other more than we’ve ever done before. Amazing guy, I love you. Thank you for all the gifts.”
Speaking of gifts, John then explained why he was prepared to bid adieu to the road by bringing out those reasons, specifically his husband and their two young sons, Zachary and Elijah, all decked out in Elton John-emblazoned letter jackets. After waving to the crowd, the trio exited the stage as John took one last seat at the piano.
“I became successful first in America and you bought the singles and the albums, the 8-tracks, the cassettes and the CDs. More important, you bought the tickets to the shows, which I love more than anything, to play live. I want to thank you for that because you made me, without America I wouldn’t be here. Thank you for all the years of love and generosity and loyalty.”
He continued: “I wish you health, love, prosperity. Be kind to each other, OK? And farewell.”
But he wasn’t done. John tickled the ivories one last time, stood up, walked away from the piano and removed his robe to reveal a tracksuit with his name printed on the back. He then stepped on a riser that lifted him towards a video screen featuring a cinematic backdrop with a yellow brick road. With that, he walked off into the distance as the screen faded to black.