Looking up at the monumental stage that would soon welcome Sir Elton John to Portland for the final time, the legendary singer-songwriter’s cultural impact was on full display. Surrounding the edge of the towering screen that lit up the Moda Center arena were images, logos and text that represented pieces of history in John’s decades-spanning career.
Tokens of The Lion King and Billy Elliot joined sculpted tributes to Soul Train and Gnomeo & Juliet. Bits of John’s album covers filled in the gaps, and the end result was a hieroglyphic history of one of the greatest artists of our time.
Being able to take in the big picture in such a visual way, the meaning of the night hit hard. After this tour, dubbed Farewell Yellow Brick Road, Elton John’s touring career, which began in 1970 with his self-titled album, would cease.
After nearly 50 years in the spotlight, it’s understandable why John would want to wrap his life on the road, and now is as good a time as ever to say farewell. The stage said it all: 50 years of impact, with Broadway musicals, Disney movie soundtracks, timeless albums and songs that everyone can recite by heart, all under his belt. Sir Elton John’s time in the spotlight has produced memories and treasures that will live on for another 50 years and more.
As John took the stage in front of the sold-out Portland arena, sitting down at the piano for the very last time in the Rose City, the crowd knew exactly what they were witnessing. Fans of all ages stood up, pouring heart and soul into singing along with these songs that soundtracked their lives.
John’s farewell show was exactly what the occasion deserved. His nearly three-hour set spanned his career, shimmering with the extravagance that has always marked his style. In his last hurrah before he left the stage, belting out the the tour’s namesake, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” John stood up, smiled, waved, and looked out at the sea of faces before him.
As John moved out of view, the band playing him out, a sense of finality fell over the crowd. What they had just witnessed was a moment in pop history. And though the Rocket Man may not return again, the memories of the night will always be a song away. —Brendan Swogger