There’s probably some parallel universe in which one might feel comfortable reviewing a Tacoma Dome performance by the man born Reginald Dwight in London, England. He’s 72 now, so it’s perfectly understandable the guy’s singing his swan song after half a century of touring and worldwide notoriety. There is, however, not a chance in the galaxy I’d ever feel qualified to critique Sir Elton Hercules John himself. He’s the Pinball Wizard, the Rocket Man. He has an Oscar, a Tony, five Grammy Awards, a Grammy Legend Award and the best-selling physical single of all time in the U.S., “Candle in the Wind 1997.” By that year he’d already been in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for three years. He hit Billboard for the first time in 1970, then its top-40 chart 56 times since then, logging yet another top-10 album for the 20th time only three months ago. Oh, not for nothing, his AIDS foundation has raised over $400 million to combat HIV.
So no, I’m not reviewing Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road World Tour,” which played Tacoma Dome last night. I will report it started promptly at 8 with the chug and clang of “Bennie and the Jets,” then squeezed about two dozen hits into two and a half hours. If John’s aging voice can’t hit the lofty heights it once did crooning Bernie Taupin’s lyrics to “Rocket Man” or the titular closer, deal with it; his piano hands are as virtuosic as ever. I can tell you he changed costumes twice, including his signature eyeglasses. I observed his longtime backing band of six, notably percussionist Ray Cooper and guitarist Davey Johnstone, reproducing most of the orchestral depth of “Philadelphia Freedom.” And oh, yeah — Did I mention we got to see the farewell tour of Elton Crocodile Rockin’ John? The Wizard dedicated this final rendition of “Your Song” to concert audiences who’ve loved him since he was 17. He gave us permission to consider it our song now, blew Tacoma Dome a kiss, and headed off down the Yellow Brick Road — except the truth is, those songs have always been our songs, yours and mine, and they will be till the last music plays on planet earth.
See, it’s only an inch shy of true to say Elton John owns stock in every car radio sold for the last 50 years. I can’t compartmentalize him as “merely” the artist Beatles and Eagles revere as a living legend. It’s not enough to say John resides in the musical pantheon. No, he inhabits the mixtape my first serious girlfriend gave me. To this day, “Tiny Dancer” reminds me of glorious heartbreak. When the fictional band Stillwater sang along with that song in Almost Famous, I did, too, as did every other person in the theater where I first saw the film. When I hear an Elton John song, I’m reminded of a date my friend Colin cut short in college. When his companion mentioned casually she’d “never cared for Elton John,” Colin stood, announced, “We’re done here,” departed the restaurant and never saw her again. And we got it. In fact, I believe on some level, despite her humiliation, she probably did, too.
Next show at this venue: Bob Seger
Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma
8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 (rescheduled from Feb. 9)