Elton John Thrills At Madison Square Garden: Review, Photos & Videos
Images by: Adam McCullough
Words by: Scott Bernstein
Elton John :: 10.18.18 :: Madison Square Garden :: NYC
Check out Adam’s gallery after the review.
Elton John is going out on top. The famed performer brought his farewell tour to Madison Square Garden in New York City on Thursday night for a nearly three-hour concert that was perfectly paced and featured 24 of his best songs. Fans of Elton John would be well served to catch him live at least one more time before he concludes the run in 2021.
Madison Square Garden is a venue that holds a special place in Elton’s heart and he didn’t waste time acknowledging as much. “I’m so happy to be back at my favorite venue in the whole wide world,” John said early on to a capacity crowd filled with such luminaries as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Donny Deutsch and Russell Crowe. Last night was the 71-year-old pianist’s 65th headlining show at The Garden and he has five more coming (tonight, November 8 – 9 and March 5 – 6). While the music was the main focus on the evening, the tour does employ extravagant production including a stage with a moving piano that is surrounded by a gold frame featuring iconic scenes from throughout his career carved into it. There was also a massive screen behind the band that would display vignettes to accompany some songs and trippy visuals for others. If there was one complaint about the show, it’s that sometimes the videos projected would take concertgoers’ attention away from the band.
And what a band it is. Elton may not be stomping around on top of his piano anymore, but he’s still a brilliant pianist who hasn’t lost a step. Then, in a scene straight out of an Allman Brothers Band concert, there’s three drummers/percussionists. Nigel Olsson has been behind the kit for over 2,000 Elton John concerts dating back to 1969 and made songs such as “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Levon” and “The Bitch Is Back” swing. John Mahon is the band’s secret weapon thanks to a voice with incredible range and a hybrid percussion/drum setup that gave a depth to the music. Finally, legendary percussionist Ray Cooper showed all night why he’s been enlisted for projects by the likes of Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and George Harrison over the past 50 years. Bassist Matt Bissonette stayed in the pocket throughout the night, keyboardist Kim Bullard had the perfect tone ready for each tune and guitarist/musical director Davey Johnstone revved up the crowd whenever he dug into a solo. Elton called the ensemble the best he’s ever had and by the end of the concert it was clear he meant it.
Thursday’s concert began with a stirring “Bennie & The Jets” in which the audience roared with each passing line. Elton’s voice was booming from the first song to the last. While the setlist was chock full of hits, he also included some of his favorites that didn’t score on the charts such as “All The Girls Love Alice,” “Indian Sunset” and “Believe.” The latter was the newest song played and was an emotional high point of the evening. John explained that he became sober in the early ’90s after a long struggle with addiction. One of his regrets when he cleaned up was that he wasn’t on the frontline of the battle against AIDS. He then decided to start the Elton John Aids Foundation in 1993, which has helped fund many programs over the past 25 years. Elton talked about how the world needs more love and compassion and chided big pharma for its greediness. Images of Elton and husband David Furnish on the frontlines were displayed as John sang “Believe.”
Elton took a number of opportunities throughout the night to talk to crowd. He discussed how happy he was to find out Aretha Franklin had covered “Border Song” in 1970, recalled how he first achieved success in the U.S. before his native U.K., dedicated “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” to his longtime writing partner Bernie Taupin and explained how thankful he was to his fans but that he was ready to spend time with his family.
While Elton John and his band played most songs in a similar style to the studio versions, there were a few notable exceptions. “Rocket Man” concluded with a masterful jam featuring brilliant interplay between the musicians and “Levon” was extended to the point where some might have forgotten what song was being played. Another highlight of the night was the epic “Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” complete with floodlights and smoke.
The main set came to a close with a bombastic run of “The Bitch Is Back,” “I’m Still Standing,” “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” in which it seemed few in the crowd were sitting down. Elton held the audience in the palm of his hand throughout the night but never more so than for its powerful conclusion. The “Your Song”/”Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” almost seemed anti-climactic … almost. John, who made multiple wardrobe changes during the concert, dedicated the finale to his family. Their gain is our loss, as Elton John is still one of the best performers in the game. Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour continues tonight at Madison Square Garden and is expected to run through 2021.
Videos | Captured by Choops4683
Take Me To The Pilot
All The Girls Love Alice
Elton John at Madison Square Garden
- Bennie and the Jets
- All the Girls Love Alice
- I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues
- Border Song
- Tiny Dancer
- Philadelphia Freedom
- Indian Sunset
- Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
- 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)
- Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
- The Bitch Is Back
- I'm Still Standing
- Crocodile Rock
- Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting
- Your Song
- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road