Elton John has been through these parts before.
One hundred and eighty-seven times in the tri-state area, to be exact. John cited the figure during a moving adieu at his Saturday, July 23, Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour show at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
“Tonight is the 241st show on this tour, and this is my 12th concert in East Rutherford,” John said. “I first came here, to the Meadowlands Arena, on Aug. 4, 1989, and tonight is my 28th concert in New Jersey. I’ll never forget Wildwood and Asbury Park, playing there, a long time ago.”
Indeed, John played two shows on Aug. 27, 1971, at the former Wildwood Convention Center, and two the next day at Convention Hall in Asbury Park.
“I’ve had one hell of a ride, and you have been there. You have made it possible,” John said. “You came to the shows. You bought the albums, the CDs, the cassettes, the vinyl. You bought the tickets to the shows because I love playing live so much. It’s been an amazing time.”
Many fans wore John-inspired over-sized glasses, sequins and boas at Saturday’s concert.
“Some of you here tonight have dressed up in the most wonderful outfits,” John said. “You guys make me happy when you put the crazy glasses and the costumes on. It makes me feel so great.”
John’s show Sunday, July 24, at the stadium will be his last in the area. The Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour began in September 2018, and was delayed due to the COVID outbreak.
On Saturday, John, always the over-the-top showman, delivered two-plus hours of beautiful ballads, honky-tonk hits, rave-up rockers and three costume changes. He came out in black-and-white, glittery formal wear. Despite his retirement, the pianist still has a lot left in the tank. His voice is full and sonorous, his playing is nimble, and his energy on this heatwave night was high.
It’s a marriage of voice and piano for John. What he plays on his Yamaha grand usually runs counter to his vocal melodies in a complementary way. On show opener “Bennie and the Jets,” John’s riff on the keys open the song up, and give it a free-flowing feel over its rocking 4/4 beat.
Vocally, John’s chops belie his age, and that was especially apparent on the classics “Tiny Dancer” and “Rocket Man.” The band, which included long-time John sidemen Davey Johnstone, guitar; Nigel Olsson, drums; and Ray Cooper, percussion, brought a superb palette to the proceedings.
There were one or two misses during the show. The R&B jam “Have Mercy on the Criminal” never picked up steam, and the gospel-tinged “Burn Down the Mission” meandered on this hot night. It was amazing the crowd was as energetic as it was considering the sweltering heat.
John brought out the uptempo songs “The Bitch is Back,” “I’m Still Standing,” “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday’s Night Alright for Fighting” to close the main set, and “Your Song” and “Yellow Brick Road were performed for the encore.
Like the song says, he’s going back to the plough, but his music will live on forever.
“When I come off the road, I’ll be 76, and I will want to spend the rest of my life with my family,” John said.
Tickets for Sunday’s show at MetLife, starting at $55, are available through Ticketmaster.
Crazy ticket prices:Bruce Springsteen fans get sticker shock
Read thisCharlie Puth says government should stay out of health matters
Elton John farwell tour setlist
Bennie and the Jets
I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
Have Mercy on the Criminal
Take Me to the Pilot
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Candle in the Wind
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Burn Down the Mission
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
The Bitch Is Back
I’m Still Standing
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
Cold Heart (Pnau Remix)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Subscribe to app.com for the latest on the New Jersey music scene.
Chris Jordan, a Jersey Shore native, covers entertainment and features for the USA Today Network New Jersey. Contact him at @chrisfhjordan; [email protected].