Famed as one of pop culture’s most enduring performers, Sir Elton John did not disappoint as 20,000 fans were taken on a musical and highly visual journey at Mt Duneed this December. Gifted with the most perfect evening, punters quickly covered the grassy surrounds of the winery with rugs, picnics, and chairs as they set themselves up for what would be an innovative, daring and emotional affair.
Kicking off the festivities, Aussie songwriter Tate Sheridan took to the stage as the sun began to set and cheese boards were aplenty, providing a classically smooth introduction to the magical evening that was to follow.
With the charming combination of his gentle nature and the rustic tones of the old Americana pulsating through the winery surrounds, Sheridan brought his latest solo work, Angel Man, to life, alongside tracks from his impressive back catalogue. Standout songs included ‘Young Love’, title track ‘Angel Man’ and ‘Two Steps Back’ – a funky number reflecting on life as a musician. A personal highlight was Sheridan’s final song, ‘Alright’. Lifted from his 2016 EP Nothing Else, the track demonstrated his ability to play with a maturity and sensitivity well beyond his years.
Despite being a relatively unknown name amongst the crowd, his skills on the piano, purposeful communication with the crowd, sublime vocals, and his gracious persona shone through his set. Having first supported Sir Elton John when he was just 23 years old, the Sydney musician subtly wooed the crowd with his unique storytelling and moving and emotional compositions, proving just why he was handpicked by Elton to warm audiences on this epic Farewell Yellow Brick Road Australian Tour.
With the capacity to bring together both the young and the young at heart, it’s simply an understatement to say Sir Elton John captured hearts of the crowd at a day on the green. As the last tour of its kind by the celebrated songwriter and iconic showman, this was a bitter-sweet experience for so many – from those that were experiencing an Elton performance for the very first time, and for those trying to accept that it would be their very last time.
Promising an unforgettable performance as he bids farewell to the stage, the 72-year-old’s energy was grandiose, hit outfit dazzling, and vocals flawless (despite the classically cool Geelong air) as he opened with the weird and wonderful 70’s hit ‘Bennie and the Jets’.
With the crowd on their feet, Elton launched into the rock classic ‘All the Girls Love Alice’, followed by ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues’, the timeless singalong lifted from Elton’s seventeenth studio album Too Low For Zero, and ‘Border Song’ from his self-titled 1970 sophomore album, which took shape as a warming tribute to the late, great Aretha Franklin, whom recorded the track for her Young, Gifted and Black album in 1972.
Beloved tracks ‘Tiny Dancer’ and ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ followed, where the long-time fans were able to indulge in these tracks being delivered with the same level of high vigour as they first were when they were released, while the screens surrounding projected a collection of footage of happy, colourfully dressed people from all different walks of life.
A welcomed surprise was Elton’s unexpected performance of ‘Indian Sunset’. Lifted from his fourth album Madman Across The Water in 1971, Elton explained that the seven-minute song focuses on the events surrounding the Trail of Tears, and the displacement of many Native American groups by the United States. Being a song that was sampled in the Eminem-produced Tupac track ‘Ghetto Gospel’, it was a clever way to keep the crowd on their toes and create an inclusive experience for the younger generations.
While it’s nearly impossible to pick the most iconic tune from the legend, one that is certainly up there is his 1972 hit song ‘Rocket Man’ which is also the name of the critically acclaimed biopic that hit the big screen earlier this year. Quite clearly a crowd favourite, this one had everyone on their feet with wine bottles in hand and flashing ‘Elton merch’ glasses on their faces, which was just phenomenal to be a part of.
With the reality setting in hard and fast that this was, in fact, the very last time we would see Elton John performing live on stage, the famed musician continued with the energetic, dazzlingly original and joyful celebrations, performing the likes of ‘Take Me to the Pilot’, ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’, ‘Levon’ and ‘Candle in the Wind’ which burned bright as one of the most beloved songs as photos of the late Marilyn Monroe flashed up on the screen.
Rounding out the second half of the set, Elton shared the overwhelmingly beautiful tracks ‘Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding’, ‘Daniel’, and ‘Sad Songs (Say So Much)’ before launching into the funky dance numbers ‘I’m Still Standing’, ‘Crocodile Rock’ and ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting’.
With a career spanning more than 50 years, complete with 38 gold records and 31 platinum and multi-platinum albums, and over 50 Top 40 hits, Elton’s final farewell was a meticulously crafted, beautiful combination of crowd favourites, singalongs, and sentimental and numbers, which were complimented by mesmerising, never-before-seen images and videos displayed on the screens throughout the winery surrounds.
Oozing a genuine gratitude and appreciation for his long-time supporters and longstanding band members (Nigel Olsson on drums, esteemed musical director Davey Johnstone on guitar, virtuoso Ray Cooper on percussion, Matt Bissonette on bass, John Mahon on percussion, and Kim Bullard on keyboards), Elton made an ever-lasting impression on the 20,000 people at a day on the green as he performed his two final songs, ‘Your Song’, which stands as one of the most beautiful love songs ever written and ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’, his tour namesake and title-track from an album that found Elton John at the peak of his powers.
Famed for being intimate and personal, while also spectacular and daring, Sir Elton John left no stone unturned for his Farewell Yellow Brick Road global tour. While I admit I was more excited to take my mother to see one of her all-time favourites at the time, I left that concert with a new-found appreciation for one of the most legendary performers in our lifetime, and I think it’s going to be a long, long time before I witness another performance quite like that.
When: Saturday December 7 2019
Where: Mt Duneed, Geelong
Photos by Chelsea Sienna King