Elton John ignites a victory lap at KeyBank Center
Pianist brings farewell tour to Buffalo
Elton John hardly had a reason to let go of his smile.
Over the course of a three-hour set, the legendary singer and pianist ignited the KeyBank Center on Saturday night, presenting a two-part set consisting of 24 songs. The concert is the fourth of John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour, a massive three-year world tour signifying the end of Elton John’s touring years.
The capacity crowd took to its feet at the opening notes of “Bennie and the Jets,” and maintained a zeal of concentration and excitement that gave Elton John an electrifying response to each and every song.
But John himself gave off more than an exceptional performance.
With a set mixing deeper cuts and chart-topping hits, John gave fans a performance worthy of an audacious roar. Each and every track received a standing ovation once completed, giving a palpable sense of energy that permeated to everyone in attendance.
The stage, complete with three percussionists of the six-man band, proved to be a grandiose spectacle. The words “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” were emblazoned on a screen-size mural of the iconic yellow brick road. The evening consisted of multiple video montages accompanying classic tracks, from dancers to animated features of John. The production was only matched by the strength of John’s handpicked tracks for the current tour.
The classic “Tiny Dancer” showcased the still-moving and satisfying vocals maintained by John, giving the audience sufficient opportunity to sing back and forth with him.
John addressed the audience several times throughout the evening, at one point taking time to address his longtime collaboration with songwriter Bernie Taupin.
“It’s been an amazing professional and personal relationship that has been stronger than ever,” John said. “We’ve never actually been in the same room when we write a song.”
With “Rocket Man,” John and his backing band embarked on a ten-minute jam, consisting of a hypnotic acoustic guitar performance as well as an extended piano medley. John gave the classic track a sense of liveliness impossible to ignore. The track was accompanied by a rocket liftoff opening and a montage of scenes from space that gave the track visual appeal. “Levon” also proved compelling with a solo and extended jam of equal magnitude.
John found a happy medium with a bulletproof set that simultaneously invigorates with up-tempo rock tracks. He gave the audience a sense of intimacy with slower ballads like “Daniel” and “Candle in the Wind.” With the latter, John made use of meticulous production as his grand piano shifted from one end of the stage to the other. The first set ended with a provocative round of applause from the audience after “Candle in the Wind.”
But John had other plans.
The second set brought a new wave of energy throughout the KeyBank Center, with deeper cuts like “Funeral for a Friend/ Love Lies Bleeding” and “Burn Down the Mission.” John spent ample time giving background and detail to the tracks he performed, asserting that “love is the cure for ails in our sick world” before performing the inspiring “Believe.”
“It’s been an incredible journey, and I never thought it’d be taken this far and last this long,” John said. “As much as I love making and releasing records, my main love in life as a musician is to play in front of other human beings. I will never ever forget it and you.”
John’s words erupted the audience in yet another span of applause, leading into fan favorites “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and “Crocodile Rock.”
With the performance of “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting),” the audience and John found a common sense of radiance as the up-tempo rock track forced all to their feet. John completed the main set with an energy and attentiveness that drew the audience closer as each track progressed.
John quickly returned to the stage for an encore, performing the gentle and warm “Your Song.” John closed the evening with a heartfelt performance of the aptly titled “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” John stood on a moving portion of the stage that took him up into the screen for his exit, resulting in a bittersweet round of applause to conclude the evening.
Brian Evans is the senior arts editor and can be reached at Brian.Evans@ubspectrum.com and @BrianEvansSpec.