It’s true that “sorry” seems to be the hardest word, but “farewell” can’t be far behind.
After 50 years as the star-studded, sequined troubadour du jour, Elton John is making the rounds of every city he’s conquered along the way, stopping to say "So long, and thanks for the memories" as only he can – with a nearly three-hour show stuffed to the gills with evergreen pop and rock hits, a blindingly beautiful light-and-video show, and a team of tenured top-tier musicians for company.
The “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour will ultimately comprise 150 shows across the span of three years. Saturday evening in Buffalo was show number four on the trek.
KeyBank Center was filled to the rafters with fans for whom Elton’s music has likely been a lifelong soundtrack. They were treated to a lovingly curated tour through that soundtrack on Saturday.
Elton and his uber-tight band – among them, legendary percussionist Ray Cooper, and long-serving sidemen - drummer Nigel Olsson and guitarist/musical director Davey Johnstone – shared with us the main attractions and detoured through the byways to see the sights.
So we were treated to the biggest of the big hits – opener “Bennie and the Jets,” indelible melodies like “Daniel,” “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” – as well as deep cuts for the more thorough purveyors of the man’s catalog, among them “Indian Sunset,” “All the Girls Love Alice,” and a lovely rendition of “Border Song” prefaced with a shout-out to Aretha Franklin, who covered the song near the beginning of Elton’s 50-year career.
I once opined that Elton, during a Buffalo gig he shared with Billy Joel, had “phoned in” his performance, a suggestion with which many fans, the management team and even Elton himself took umbrage.
Saturday’s show felt very much like the polar opposite of that earlier evening. Elton was in excellent voice, was wholly engaged with the crowd, seemed to be having the time of his life, and acted as a passionate, affable tour guide through one of the greatest songbooks of 20th century popular music.
What a beautiful way to say goodbye.
Elton John, Sept. 15 at KeyBank Center.