elton john
Elton John | Photo by Don Arnold | Getty Images

Elton John Review – Rocket Man Defies the Sydney Deluge for One Final Blastoff

Elton John performed at Allianz Stadium, Sydney, on Wednesday, 18th January. Alasdair Belling reviews.

They came in their tens of thousands. The casuals. The die-hards. The kids dragged along by their feather-boa-donning parents. The parents dragged along by their kids wanting to see the voice behind ‘Cold Heart.’ Sydney was camped up and ready to give Reginald Dwight – better known as Sir Elton John – one last party before he skipped off down that yellow brick road for good.

Elton John – ‘I’m Still Standing’

Not even a grim weather forecast could deter the Elton faithful, with the newly refurbished Allianz Stadium rammed to the bleachers by twilight, sparkling glasses alight and voices at the ready for a round of sing-a-longs to one of the few remaining icons of rock and roll.

Ever the consummate professional, the opening Gmaj7 chord of ‘Bennie and the Jets’ stabbed through the PA at the stroke of 7:30 after a somewhat understated entrance by the man of the hour, kicking off a two-hour and fifteen-minute race through a lifetime of hits (and one 2022 single). 

Elton was flanked by the ever-reliable and razor-sharp ‘Elton John Band’ – featuring long-time favourites Nigel Olson and Davey Johnstone alongside the hyperactive, timpani-whacking Ray Cooper and percussionist John Mahon, among others. They wasted no time winning over the somewhat sedate crowd (a byproduct of no support act); The crowd of 50,000 rose to their feet during the fifth song, ‘Tiny Dancer,’ and remained there for the rest of the night.

Elton John – ‘Bennie and the Jets’

This was a show where onlookers were hardly afforded the chance to sit down. Aside from several moving solo piano ballads (‘Border Song’ dedicated to Aretha Franklin, ‘Candle In The Wind’), the fields usually frequented by NRL and A-League teams instead became a heaving RSL dance floor, with one of the world’s best booked for entertainment.

A particularly ambient ‘Rocket Man’ – featuring a free-time jam to see it out of the stratosphere – gave way to a jukebox of crowd-pleasers, with ‘Have Mercy On The Criminal,’ ‘Take Me To The Pilot’ and ‘Levon’ earning rousing receptions.

However, Elton’s final show in the harbour city will be remembered by that one Sydney mainstay from these past 12 months; the rain.

Having mercifully held out throughout the show’s first half, the weather gods descended with a vengeance during the gothic prog-epic ‘Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding.’ The occasion wasn’t lost on Elton; “This one’s for all you wet lovers,” he quipped with a sly smile, before launching into a somewhat surprising but delightful rendition of ‘Burn Down The Mission.’ A quagmire of grooving bodies lapped it up. 

Thankfully though, the music won out over the elements with an undeniable four-pronged attack of ‘Bitch Is Back,’ ‘I’m Still Standing,’ ‘Crocodile Rock’ and ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,’ bringing the impressive main set to a close.

While it’s easy to be cynical about Elton’s infectiously annoying collaboration with PNAU and Dua Lipa, ‘Cold Heart,’ there was no denying the passionate reception it received, bringing a taste of Mardi Gras to the event. Beneath screens displaying a singing Dua Lipa, Elton sat at the piano for the song’s duration – an unorthodox choice for a club banger – but was noticeably upbeat about performing it. “At my age, it’s a thrill to have a number one record, even after all these years,” he said afterwards, in a rare off-the-cuff moment.

Elton John, Dua Lipa – ‘Cold Heart’ (PNAU Remix)

It highlighted perhaps the only drawback of an otherwise flawless evening. While Elton was in a far fuller voice than on other recent outings, he appeared at times to be disengaged and simply moving through the motions – albeit in an impressively oiled manner.

There was no denying, though, a seemingly genuine sense of gratitude emanating from the figure behind the piano as the final strains of ‘Your Song’ and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ brought the final encore to a close.

He might not be capable of the falsetto “lah-lah’s” that made ‘Crocodile Rock’ so addictive, nor the piano acrobatics that made his 70s spectacles a must-see event. But as Elton took his final bow and left the stage – now over 200 shows into his final world tour – it was hard not to feel a sense of wonder about being in the presence of one of history’s greatest songwriters just one last time.

Further Reading

Molly Meldrum Apologises for Mooning Crowd at Elton John Show

Elton John And Britney Spears Release ‘Hold Me Closer’ Collaboration

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