The Rocket Man himself, Sir Elton John, had Philadelphia “Crocodile Rock”-ing during his shows Nov. 8 and 9 at the Wells Fargo Center.
It was the last time the rock star will tour in Philadelphia, as he is retiring next year to be with his family and raise his children. The three-year-long retirement world tour began in Allentown, Pa. September of last year and some may have caught him in Philadelphia for the first leg of the tour.
The opening number, “Bennie and the Jets,” began with such overwhelming musical power that it left some members of the audience in tears. John entered the stage in a black suit, the shoulders of which were covered in diamonds.
Though John was restricted to his piano for the majority of the show, he made sure to get up after every song and wave to the audience, greeting them with joy.
Elton John is known for his iconic costumes — many of which were featured in “Rocketman,” the biographical musical film released earlier this year starring Taron Egerton as John.
About halfway through the show, John opted for a costume change, briefly leaving the stage before returning in a different suit, this time printed with bright pink and green floral activity for “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.” It was almost as if your grandmother’s faded sofa curtains came to life in the form of a glasses-laden rock star.
“Philadelphia Freedom” was a hit among the Philly crowd, many of whom had seen Elton John perform in various other tours for his 30 plus albums. One fan even had a poster that read: “This is my 33rd Elton John concert.”
There is no opening act for Elton John on his tour — it was all Elton for three hours straight. John was joined by his band, including Davey Johnstone, iconic drummer Nigel Olsson, who was fitted in heavy-duty headphones for the entirety of the show, Matt Bissonette, John Mahon, Kim Bullard and Ray Cooper. John has been performing with all of the members of the band for decades, though on-and-off for some of them. They are just as much a highlight of the tour as he is, and John made that known during their introductions.
Despite Elton John’s touring career coming to a close, 2019 has been a major year for his career. John composed many of the songs for the 1994 animated Disney hit “The Lion King,” which was remade earlier this year. Licensing and royalties brought in yet another opportunity for the superstar, who has also been confirmed to be working on the score for a new musical: a stage rendition of “The Devil Wears Prada” set to appear on the Chicago stage next summer with music by Elton John.
Toward the end of the show, John mentioned his dedication and passion for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which he created in 1992 and has been working closely with ever since. John argued that there is no longer a reason for people to die of this disease due to modern spread prevention.
The technical design of the stage was a fantastic balance between modernity and bright colors,fitting of a current star matched with the life experiences and triumphs over the abuses that John had faced. The outline of the projection screen was decorated in John’s accomplishments, including title images of “The Lion King,” “AIDA” and “Billy Elliott,” the musicals for which he composed the scores. Some of his hit albums are also featured, including “Madman Across the Water.” There are dozens of other decorations spanning the entirety of the outline, as he has many accomplishments during his career spanning five decades.
As for the stage itself, multiple platforms highlighted the work of Johns’ band — including all three of his drummers. Ray Cooper is seated at the top, among many percussion instruments including a full drum kit, cymbals, chimes and tambourines. The rest of the band is on a platform level with the main performance stage, 10 to 15 feet from where John’s iconic piano rests.
The final number, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” released confetti over the audience before final bows. After a standing ovation, the band returned to play encores, “Your Song” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” before John shed his designer robe and ascended up onto the giant projection screen, mirroring the final scene in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Elton John and his ensemble will continue to tour in Oceania through March of next year, before returning for leg five, visiting the U.S. one last time. If you’re dying to see Captain Fantastic one more time before his retirement, there is a show in Newark April 15, 2020 — but be warned, tickets aren’t cheap.