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Elton John's farewell tour, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2018

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his is not the first time Elton John has said farewell -- at least as a touring act.

But this time he says he means it.

The iconic singer-songwriter-pianist-activist -- who's sold more than 300 million records worldwide and has scored more than 50 Top 40 hits in the U.S. -- is near the beginning of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, a three-year epic that will take him to five continents for more than 300 shows. John says he wants to spend more time on other endeavors, and with his family, including husband David Furnish and their two young sons.

Davey Johnstone has been playing guitar for John since 1971 and serves as his bandleader and chief on stage foil. It's a fond farewell for him, too, but the Scottish stringbender is staying dry-eyed -- for now -- as he takes stock of both what's ahead and what's behind...

Why a farewell tour now? "Well, I'm 67 years old, and (John) is 71," Johnstone says by phone from Boston. This has been an abnormal career for rock 'n' roll. There's only ever been us and the Stones. U2 are creeping up on us, although we've probably got 10 years on them, and the Stones have 10 years on us. We've always been a hard touring band, a hard working band, and that's allowed him to become a mega star the world over. But you can't do that forever. Nobody can."

But Johnstone says farewell may not necessarily be forever. "I know that when we finish this three-year monster we'll be done (with touring), but at the same time there's a sneaking feeling there might be a one-off here and there that we'll plays. We'll do a festival or we'll do this or that. Guys like us don't retire. This is really not a short-term thing for us. It's never been, like, in, make a lot of money, get out. It's always been, 'OK, what's gonna happen now? What do we do next?'"

Even though he's "seen people weeping in the audience," Johnstone -- who released a solo album in 1973 and collaborated with Detroit lyricist Steve Trudell for the early 90s group Warpipes -- says the finality of the tour hasn't struck him yet. "Not right now. It's too early. That may come in the last weeks of the tour, so you better ask me again in 2021."

Because of the sheer volume of material available, selecting a repertoire for any John tour has always been a challenge. But that's been compounded even further because of this being a farewell tour, according to Johnstone. "There is no right version. You can't please everybody, that's the bottom line. We know that if we don't play 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' or 'Daniel' or 'Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me,' there'll probably be a riot. There's so many songs you have to do because people love them, and if we don't they'll go away not very pleased. On the other hand there's the hardcore fans who think that the tour should be all deep cuts and stuff, which is...unrealistic. You've just got to go with your heart and do the most popular songs with a few twists here and there to make it the show it is."

Though still flashy, John's sedate attire is considerably more sedate than it was during his 70s heyday, when he was apt to appear dressed as Donald Duck or in a glittery baseball uniform or festooned with feathers. Johnstone says that was something he always took in stride. "I always had a good laugh every night when it started. The thing about Elton is he's always had a unique dress sense, even before I joined him. As it progressed and his costumes got weirder and weirder, I really didn't notice. Really. It was more like, 'Oh, what's he wearing? He's Minnie Mouse tonight?' Fine, no big deal...'"

Elton John performs at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 12-13, at Little Caesars Arena. Tickets start at $49.50. 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

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