The glitziest goodbye
Harrison Smith
11:43 27th June 2022

Amidst a jamboree of glitter, novelty spectacles and a whole heap of feathers, Sir Elton John, now remarkably in his 75th year, took to the BST Hyde Park stage for the fourth time in his triumphant career. Donning a white diamond-studded jacket, the Rocketman didn’t waste any time and commenced the evening with the gloriously sounding opening chord of Bennie and the Jets. Responsible for one of rock’s greatest intros, few other tracks in his wildly impressive repertoire could be considered for the job as “setlist opener”. 

With a stage decorated in yellow brick, bright lights and the iconic tree situated at stage-right, John, midway through his global spanning behemoth Farewell Yellow Brick Road, admits he and his band had had this particular show in mind for some time. To mark the occasion and to celebrate the fortune of the weather holding out, he treats the crowd to an epic two-hour-plus setlist of chart-toppers, deep cuts, and two touching tributes, 1970’s ‘Border Song’ to Aretha Franklin and 1974 classic ‘Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me’ to fellow Brit and close friend George Michael. 

A ball of bounding energy, Sir Elton seldom lets up on the showmanship. Briefly losing the crowd's attention during the outside choice of ‘Have Mercy on the Criminal’, all eyes were back on the stage with a soaring rendition of his theme tune ‘Rocket Man’. Seemingly having the most fun he has had in years, it’s clear that the multi-year tour designed to be his au revoir to onstage life has given him a blast of giddy energy. Seeing off a career unlike any other, John beams a jubilant smile throughout, evidence that he is genuinely savouring every moment. 

Consistently packing a sonic punch, his backing band, some of whom we find out via John’s introductions have been with him since the start, are a tight-knit crew. Not a note is missed, even when the vocals are somewhat restrained. While a few numbers are a significantly lower-key, most of the set is all singing, all dancing. 

In celebration of his first number one in years, ‘Cold Heart’, the Dua Lipa featuring dance number which soundtracked a hefty portion of 2021, kicks off the encore. ‘Your Song’ expectedly sees one of the biggest sing-alongs of the evening, accompanied by cascading screens displaying the various achievements of John’s life. Ranging from a Knighthood to Live Aid to even a famed Simpsons cameo, it's a highly impressive back catalogue of achievements that highlights how much John has capitalised on his fame and notability. 

Head to toe in silk, John, still smiling, closes the evening on the title track of his beloved album and the inspiration for the tour ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’. Among the tears, the cheers, and a considerable number of beers, Elton John, a name that will undoubtedly reverberate throughout history, unfurls a sports jacket adorned with his name and climbs aboard a stairlift to ascend the stage, waving his final goodbye to his adoring Hyde Park fans. 

From here, the tour rolls on for another 100-plus date; however, tonight feels like a milestone in an extraordinary life. A culmination of glam rock, pop and much more, Sir Elton John gives a fitting send-off to his days of playing Hyde Park. 

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Photo: Rory Barnes