In an evening full of musical memories and life moments, Sir Elton John bid farewell to his yellow brick road past, looking forward to more time with his family while giving his Atlanta fans a grand look back at a career of hits.
Playing to a packed house at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Sept. 22, Sir Elton tickled the ivories and the fancies of his fans with 23 songs in a 2.5 hour performance that was reminiscent of former extravagant stage productions but included noticeable production and performance challenges that come with staging a huge event featuring a 75-year old musical artist in a cavernous football stadium.
But let's face it, Sir Elton's fans came to this concert for a night of nostalgia, not to critique whether an aged Elton John could still rock it, man. Yet, that he did: rocked it, popped it and put on a high energy show where he clearly demonstrated he could outlast most of the members of his audience.
Opening his set with his 1973 hit, Benny and the Jets, it was instantly noticeable that John's vocal range and command was diminished, as the high notes were lowered and those attempted often missed. The crowd was quickly transported back to the early days of that Elton John and Bernie Taupin song-writing magic. He followed with the "poppy" Philadelphia Freedom, written as a favor to tennis legend Billie Jean King to promote her ill-fated Philadelphia Freedoms professional tennis team. Then he jumped forward to the 1980s with "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," before returning to early works that included Border Song, Tiny Dancer Have Mercy, Rocket Man and Take Me to the Pilot.
John concluded the first half of the night with Candle in the Wind, a song inspired by Marilyn Monroe but more likely associated by most with the funeral of Princess Diana of Wales. Despite the fact that this altered version became one of the world's all-time top-selling single, John vowed never to perform it again. This night, he performed the original, along with a video tribute to the original inspiration. It's not often that a ballad gets a standing ovation, but this one did, with all of Mercedes Benz lit by cell phones waving back and forth to the haunting lyrics.
Following a recorded interlude, John returned to the stage with Funeral for a Friend and Love Lies Bleeding, the opening track from his legendary Yellow Brick Road album. The second half included nine songs, concluding with a high-energy string of Bitch Is Back, I'm Still Standing, Crocodile Rock and Saturday Night.
Of course, the audience wanted more, and Sir Elton obliged with a pre-recorded duet with Dua Lipa of the global chart-topping Cold Heart, all while the animated music video played on the giant stage screens.
He returned to his piano with his band to perform Your Song, then spoke to the audience about his career, his home in Atlanta, his future plans and the special place in his heart reserved for loyal fans.
Then, a progression of well-known chords were followed by the lilting lyrics of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as Sir Elton bade his final performing farewell to the ATL. Fittingly, after fans recognized his incredible effort and performance with minutes of standing ovations, John literally ascended from the main stage and disappeared, leaving fans to remember that final lyric:
"I've finally decided my future lies, beyond the yellow brick road."