A little Knight music

“Fine, I’ll play 10 more songs!”

“Fine, I’ll play 10 more songs!”

Photo by Ashley Hayes-Stone

The fog machines churning overtime halt, and the veil of smoke sits petrified in spotlights, barely circulating. Thousands of lungs hold onto their payloads, bated in anticipation of a last look at an icon of the stage—the end to a final evening with Sir Elton John on his Sacramento stop of the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. His two-part encore arrived, beginning with “Your Song,” which he dedicated to his Sac fans.

John is a performer. Undeniably, he’s in his element when on the piano. He’s a salmon swimming upstream, following intuition with unmatched commitment. He sparkles under the light, wearing shimmering scales and mugging infectiously to the audience. And when he mugs, he mugs with confidence that you’re going to love what’s coming next. He smirks and throws his head back, pulling faces, never missing a beat. At the end of each song, he stands up, often emphatically lifting the lid of the piano and slamming it down, “That’s how you play a song!” At one point he rides the piano around stage like a lawnmower.

The evening starts with “Bennie and the Jets” and goes through the Elton John songbook. The hits get paired with compelling videos that, with the talent and energy of his band, more than make up for any decline in John’s voice. Especially moving are “Tiny Dancer” as the backdrop to a series of vignettes of life in Los Angeles, and an animated waltz through a bizarro-world riddled with pills and nightmarish Captain Fantastic creatures for “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”

Clothed in a vintage-print, floral tailcoat adorned with pearls on the back—dazzlingly arranged to spell “Gucci Loves Elton”—and wearing thick, green-rimmed glasses, John described the difficulty in choosing a set list for the tour. There are so many songs he’d like to sing, and not enough time for them all. John proves he truly means this by playing the living hell out of every single song for nearly three hours. He’s 71 years old, and this is his final tour, but he seems like he could keep doing this forever.

John pays tribute to the people who have made his life meaningful—his lyricist of 50-plus years, Bernie Taupin; the woman who covered “Border Song” early on in his career, Aretha Franklin; and his tireless band members. Ray Cooper, one of the band’s percussionists, is a star. He’s irresistible; a tambourine in his hands is all he needs to steal the show, bobbing and weaving, howling and halting for emphasis—he seems like an extension of John.

The final encore is “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and gold-colored confetti explodes down from the rafters, showering the crowd in paper confetti. They land on shoulders, heads, coating seats because nobody is seated. John boards a railed platform-escalator and ascends, alone, into the back of the stage. He’s gone. See you, Sacramento—it’s time for John to say goodbye to scores more cities across five continents.