On Sunday night, Elton John and Music City finally finished a very long goodbye.
It’s been nearly five years since the rock legend announced he’d embark on one last tour before riding off into the sunset. The “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour first came to Nashville in 2018, then returned for a victory lap the following year.
This year, he announced one last leg for the U.S., bringing him to ballfields across the country, including our Nissan Stadium for a final “farewell” — which, frankly speaking, has become difficult to take seriously.
That said, you’ll never hear us complain when Elton John decides to give Nashville one more show. And the tens of thousands that piled into the home of the Titans Sunday night certainly weren’t mad, either.
The pandemonium began before the first note, as the fans to the left of the stage spotted John waiting in the wings, and soon it seemed the entire stadium was on its feet. John was hard to miss, of course — shimmering in a sequin-lined, flower-adorned black and white tuxedo (with tails).
Taking a seat behind the piano, he soon met their energy, rising from his bench throughout opener “Bennie and the Jets” for boisterous posing worthy of a professional wrestler, and slamming the lid of the piano down for emphasis (a bold move for a guy with a world tour riding on his fingers).
His falsetto is long gone — John calls on the crowd to fill on the high notes of “Bennie” and “Crocodile Rock” — but he still belts with impressive range, force and soul.
It was doubly impressive once John addressed the crowd, and it became clear he was battling some kind of congestion. He even wondered aloud much longer his pipes would hold up, but as soon as another song began, the grit in his voice vanished.
“This is our last show ever in Nashville, Tennessee,” he said. “So we’d better make it a good one.”
It’s a testament to John’s catalog that the cuts he plays early in a concert make you think, “He’s not saving these for the big finish?”
Among those were “Tiny Dancer,” Rocket Man,” and “Levon," which all emerged in the first hour, alongside deeper pulls like “Border Song” (a tribute to the late Aretha Franklin, who thrilled John and lyricist Bernie Taupin when she recorded it) and “Have Mercy On The Criminal.”
John’s six-piece band, by the way, is surprisingly modest, and littered with longtime collaborators. That included bandleader Davey Johnstone (his guitarist of 51 years) and Nigel Olsson, who first played drums for him in 1969.
Olsson was the lone sideman not wearing dark sunglasses on stage, instead opting for white-glove style that answered the question, “What if Batman’s butler moonlighted as a rock drummer?”
They weren’t the only ones dressed up. An Elton John concert, clearly, is an occasion for fans to pile on glittery glasses, feather boas and sequined jackets, whether they were bought at the merch booth or Amazon. John even shouted out an audience member dressed like his mid-‘70s alter ago Captain Fantastic.
He also mentioned some of the local friends he got to see before the show, including Sheryl Crow, T Bone Burnett, Callie Khouri and “The fabulous Fancy Hagood” (who recently appeared on his “Rocket Hour” show on Apple Music).
After closing out the main set with “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” and an eruption of confetti, John returned alone for the inevitable encore. It began with his recent hit collaboration with Dua Lipa, “Cold Heart,” which blends “Rocket Man” and several more of his classics to the thump of a modern dance beat.
“I tell you, at 75 years of age, it feels great to have a number-one record throughout the world,” he said afterwards.
He followed it with very his first top 10 hit, 1970’s “Your Song,” before bidding Nashville farewell – for the third time – with “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”
“What a way to finish, in one of the greatest music cities in the whole wide world,” he said.
As he vanished from view, we left convinced this was probably, sincerely, it for Elton John in Nashville. But after the show we got on Sunday, he’s more than welcome to prove us wrong.
Elton John Nashville concert 2022 setlist
Bennie and the Jets
I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues
Border Song (Tribute to Aretha Franklin)
Have Mercy on the Criminal
Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long, Long Time)
Take Me to the Pilot
Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Candle in the Wind
Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Burn Down the Mission
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
The Bitch Is Back
I'm Still Standing
Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Elton John says 'Farewell' to Nashville with massive stadium concert