[POP] “Maybe you’ll get a replacement/There’s plenty like me to be found,” Elton John sings on the title track to one of his most celebrated works, 1973’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. He couldn’t possibly have known how ironic it’d seem some 45 years later as he begins a farewell tour that comes to Buffalo on Saturday, September 15. The fact is that John remains a singular entity among fellow singer-songwriters, and there is no replacing him. Retiring — and really meaning it — seems to be a difficult feat for icons of popular music, but whether that’s about ego or money is debatable (in some cases both, but maybe in others, neither). Like fellow songwriter Paul Simon, however, Elton John seems earnest in his intent to end his tenure as a touring performer so he can nurture his private life (as opposed to Cher, Ozzy and KISS, for examples, who have all announced farewell tours and then gone for additional “victory laps”). Granted, the Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour consists of more than 300 shows spread over 5 continents in 3 years – in true Elton John over-the-top style, it’s a behemoth undertaking. And Buffalo is really in for a treat since this will be just the fourth performance of the tour, which kicked off on September 8 in Allentown, PA. This means that the six-piece band is warmed up and ready to go, any kinks in the production have been ironed out, and John is full of energy. In fact, early reports are that he’s in rare form, cranking out a 24-song show that clocks in at over two-and-a-half hours, rife with extended instrumental passages, warm backup vocal harmonies and punchy performances from John himself. Additionally, as he promised when he announced the tour back in January, it includes a trove of rare visuals, including never-before-seen photos by photographer Martin Parr from John’s personal collection (during “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues”), and a set of animated characters originally developed for a feature film to coincide with 1975’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy that was never produced (during “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”). For “Tiny Dancer,” John is featuring the work of filmmaker Max Weiland, winner of a YouTube competition he spearheaded last year called The Cut, for which aspiring artists were given the chance to conceive and produce official music videos for 3 of his classic songs.
Now 71, Elton John’s achievements as a recording artist are staggering: 38 gold records and 31 platinum and multi-platinum albums, over 50 Top 40 hits — more than 300 million records sold worldwide. After announcing the Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour in January, 450,000 tickets sold right out of the gate during the pre-sale. While it’s clear that other singer-songwriters whose careers took flight in the 1970’s have left indelible marks on pop culture (Carole King, James Taylor, Billy Joel), John has surpassed them all in terms of reach and impact. When his voice began to lower in the late 1980’s following a very necessary vocal surgery, his popularity didn’t waver. When he came out of the closet, at a time when AIDS-related paranoia had reached a fevered pitch, the world stood by him. And the world is standing by him again, sending him off in style as he makes this exhausting trek to say a proper goodbye. Don’t miss it, Saturday, September 15 at the Key Bank Center.