The 16,000 enthusiastic faces that fill the Palau Sant Jordi are illuminated by the bursts of light that the spotlights throw at each stroke of Elton John's keyboard. A piano chord, dry, staccato. And another and another. It is the unmistakable initial beat of Bennie and the Jets, the song from that famous Goodbye yellow brick road that in 1973 catapulted him as a rock star, a rare talent on piano who, academically trained in classical music, composed painful ballads with astonishing ease. to rhythmic-bluesy challenges that since that album with far west airs entitled Tumbleweed Connection made their Stonian majesties and their Chuck Berry aspirations pale.
Half a century later, that Goodbye... gives an easy title to his farewell tour, which has raised 817.9 million dollars in 306 concerts and 5 million tickets sold. A record. It is a big farewell for whom the illustrious Briton, favorite of the queen but friend of Lady Di, has done well to rummage through his trunk from the seventies. The rest of his career, with or without Bernie Taupin writing, has never lived up to that.
"Good evening, Barcelona, we are happy to finally be here, after such a long time, but we guarantee you a fantastic show," he said after singing Philadelphia Freedom, splashed with colors on the big screen, and giving way to I guess that's why they call it the blues. Yes, the pandemic had forced part of the tour to be postponed, and then that hip operation that he lets us see on his walks around the stage haranguing an audience that this Tuesday will acclaim him again.
It would be with Border song that Elton would evoke that American landing of the year 70 that fell in love with the American public even before the British, to the point that Aretha Franklin made her version of the song at the same time that Elton and Taupin released the single. “It was the happiest moment of my life to date.” The theme was borderline, indeed, both for its spiritual airs and for its racial proclamation: “Holy Moses, let us live in peace / let us fight against hatred / there is a man there. What color is he, I don't care / he is my brother. Let us live in peace." And in the background, images of Aretha, young and old, Lady Di or a flash of Meghan and Harry's wedding...
That spirit of a dark western would be recovered later in a tremendous Have mercy on the criminal from the album Don't shoot me, I'm only the piano player –with which the band seemed to align for the first time– and also in Levon, from his favorite album, Captain Fantastic.
Davey Johnstone on guitar, the leader who has everything ready when Elton arrives; Nigel Olsson on drums, wearing gloves and slowing down a hair, and Ray Cooper with a whole floor of percussion, made up the historical section, the one from the glory years when together they breathed in air and exhaled pure gold. They were backed up, on bass, by Matt Bissonette and another percussionist, John Mahon, both great backing vocalists, and keyboardist Kim Bullard, with erratic colors, but taking care of the orchestral sound on some songs.
The Pinner-born Reginald Dwight gave his last look at his extraordinary body of art. There was no shortage of Tiny dancer, a version halfway between the one from 71 and that oblique chorus from Britney Spears' Hold me closer. And the colossal Candle in the wind, with video clips of Marilyn and Elton's piano gliding across the stage.
The careful images dealt with glitter, narrating with cartoons, setting the sky in a psychedelic Rocket man, Elton in the key of blackness or unleashing the storm in Funeral for a friend, a theme with a happy ending, the sugar cane Love lies bleeding.
It was not, therefore, a concert for a septuagenarian with a tendency to play ballads. No, at 76, this man with 300 million records sold was going to throw out the rest as if he were twenty. And vocally, as if he were 50 (and some rhythmic whims). He endured and endured (145 minutes), he took his rock classics out of his hat –The bitch is back, Saturday night and Crocodrile rock, which the audience chanted happily (Tito Ramoneda with the poster of 106 concerts seen)– and let all the images show through. his life in I'm still standing. Emotion in Sorry seems to be the hardest word and the progressive Don't let the sun go down on me... set with sketches from the autobiographical film Rocketman... In the encores he came out in a robe with the colors of the Dodgers and Dua Lipa on video singing the popera Cold heart. He would follow Your song, which made him the most famous singer-pianist of the 20th century. “It is my 306th concert on this tour, the tenth in Barcelona, a beautiful city with an audience. Thank you for your loyalty, I carry you in my heart”. And he started Goodbye... and disappeared down the yellow brick road from which he doesn't seem to be coming back.