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Elton John dazzles in farewell concert in Tampa

The sold-out show was a stop on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour.
Sir Elton John performs during the first stop of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans in January. John played a sold-out show at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sunday.
Sir Elton John performs during the first stop of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans in January. John played a sold-out show at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sunday. [ BEN GIBSON | Courtesy of Rocket Entertainment ]
Published Apr. 25|Updated Apr. 25

TAMPA — You could feel the love Sunday night at the sold-out Elton John concert at Amalie Arena.

It came from the excited fans, many of whom dressed up in bedazzled, thick-framed glasses and feather boas that John has made part of his signature look over the years. And it was reciprocated by Sir Elton, who told the audience he loved them after the first two songs.

The farewell tour’s Tampa stop was a long time coming. It was originally scheduled for 2018, but was postponed to 2019 due to illness. After the November 2019 show sold out in Tampa, John announced a second farewell tour, which was delayed because of the pandemic.

The Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour launched in January, but a couple of dates were postponed when the singer tested positive for COVID-19.

John started the show with a bang, rolling out Bennie and the Jets as many fans were still taking their seats. Dressed in a sparkly tuxedo and glittery green glasses, he nimbly worked the piano with an energy that never faltered during the two-hour-plus set. John’s powerful voice sounds phenomenal.

The stage’s backdrop was a brick pattern decorated with symbols of John’s achievements throughout his storied, 50-year career. They included The Lion King motif, the Soul Train logo and the Gucci logo. It framed a screen where videos played to illustrate songs, each one more different than the next. During Philadelphia Freedom, dancers clad in rainbow-colored streetwear nodded to LGBTQ equality.

But it was most exciting when the screen showed John and his exceptional band playing live. On stage were John Mahon and Nigel Olsson (drums, backing vocals), Ray Cooper (percussion), Davey Johnstone (guitar, backing vocals), Matt Bissonette (bass guitar, vocals) and Kim Bullard (keyboards). Johnstone, Olsson and Cooper have been playing with John since the 1970s.

The show reached a climax with a nine-minute extended version of Rocket Man, in which Johnstone really went for it. He also shined during Have Mercy on the Criminal.

During Levon, percussionist Cooper was showing out, rocking a tambourine in ways not usually seen. That song ascended into another massive jam that ended with the one moment John had to visibly catch his breath.

To slow things down, John performed Candle in the Wind, the version dedicated to Marilyn Monroe, accompanied by a video montage of the iconic actor.

The singer kept his patter to a minimum, relatively. But he shared anecdotes about his music, like how Aretha Franklin recorded his Border Song when he was just starting out and that led to a lifelong friendship and working relationship. Before he played Someone Saved My Life Tonight, he said it was one of his favorite songs he and musical partner Bernie Taupin ever wrote.

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The crowd sang along to favorites like Tiny Dancer and Sad Songs (Say So Much) and provided the fun laaaa-la-la-la-la-la part of Crocodile Rock. A montage of John’s greatest moments, including his appearances on Soul Train and The Simpsons, played during I’m Still Standing.

Indeed, John is still standing and singing and playing with such passion and fervor that it’s hard to imagine him wanting to hang it up. The same goes for the band; these guys looked like they were having the time of their lives.

A shower of golden confetti rained down on the audience during Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, the last song before the encore. John returned to the stage wearing a pink robe and heart-shaped glasses. He played his hit Cold Heart, a duo with Dua Lipa, who appeared on the screen. He remarked on how exciting it was to have a hit at age 75, then played his first hit, Your Song.

John ended the night recounting the number of times he’s played in Tampa and in Florida. He remarked that while he won’t be back, he’ll never forget us.

“Farewell,” he said, before launching into Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. He stripped off the robe, revealing a colorful track suit, then got onto a contraption that disappeared him into the back of the screen. It was hard to watch him go.

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