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Elton John says goodbye as ‘Yellow Brick Road’ leads him through Columbia a last time

Before leaving the stage at Colonial Life Arena for the last time, music legend Elton John thanked South Carolina fans for what they have meant to him during his 50-year career.

“I just want to say South Carolina, thanks for everything you’ve ever given me,” John told the sold-out crowd Wednesday night.

In return, the Rocket Man gave those on hand a memorable performance that had fans singing, dancing and cheering as his whirlwind farewell tour touched down in Columbia.

John wasn’t flawless. After taking a seat behind his trademark piano shortly after 8 p.m., he thrilled the crowd by opening the show with his hit song “Bennie and the Jets.”

But there was a collective murmur in the audience after the song, as he mistakenly addressed the fans from a different city.

“Good evening Columbus,” John said, quickly realizing his miscue and recovering. “Columbia. I’ve been traveling since September so I don’t know where I am half the time.”

Fans enjoy Elton John as he performs “Rocket Man” during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour to a packed house at the Colonial Life Arena. 3/13/19 Tracy Glantz

He then apologized, in advance, because he was not going to be able to play everyone’s favorite songs.

“If I do, we’ll be here til 3 in the morning,” John said.

Over the course of the nearly three-hour concert, John did play 24 songs. He did not need to apologize as most of them were among his most popular songs, with several included on his numerous greatest hits albums.

Before the first hour had passed, John had played “Tiny Dancer,” “Border Song,” and “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be a Long, Long Time).”

During many of the interludes between songs, when he addressed the crowd, John’s voice often sounded hoarse. But there was no trace of strain when he was singing hit after hit.

With power and poignancy, John belted out the lyrics and made the turn of phrases from words written by his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. On several occasions during the concert, John discussed their process and offered a glimpse behind the scenes of making some of the most popular songs of the past 50 years.

John also showed off his legendary piano playing skills throughout the night. His virtuosity was on full display during extended versions of “Rocket Man,” and “Levon” where he and his band thrilled the crowd with instrumental jam sessions.

Elton John performs “Rocket Man” during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour to a packed house at the Colonial Life Arena. 3/13/19 Tracy Glantz

After his piano glided from one end of the stage to the other midway through the show, John had a wardrobe change, going from a sequin jacket to one embroidered with pink roses. He also switched from rose-colored sunglasses that had “Elton” studded in the frames with diamonds, to green-rimmed spectacles.

They might not have looked right on almost anyone else, but were literally made for Elton John — by Gucci, The State reported.

While he was the consummate showman with lots of flair, John took time to address serious subjects, specifically HIV and AIDS. Since 1992, he has raised more than $400 million to fight the diseases through the Elton John AIDS Foundation, according to a news release.

“It seems crazy that in the rural south that this disease is thriving,” John said to the crowd before pledging to do everything he can to end AIDS.

After playing fan favorites “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” “The Bitch is Back,” “I’m Still Standing,” “Crocodile Rock,” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” he briefly left the stage. But not before introducing his band, asking the crowd to “give them a big Columbia roar. Not Columbus, Columbia.”

The crowd happily obliged. It continued cheering, when not singing, as John returned for a two-song encore that included “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and “Your Song.”

“That’s your song Columbia,” John told the fans, who continued to cheer as he ended the performance by being slowly lifted off the set in a basket as he waved farewell.

Tickets for the Columbia show went on sale more than a year ago, after John announced he was retiring from the stage at the end of his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour.” The multi-year farewell global tour started last September, and is scheduled to include stops in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia before it concludes, according to Elton John’s website.

The piano player’s career includes 38 gold records, 31 platinum and multi-platinum albums, more than 50 Top 40 hits and sales of more than 300 million records worldwide, according to a news release. He has won five Grammy’s, a Tony and an Oscar for his music, and has delivered more than 4,000 performances in 80 countries since launching his first tour in 1970.

Two more sold out shows in Florida the next two nights are on John’s schedule before crossing the Atlantic to tour in Europe. He will be back in the U.S., including concerts in Atlanta (Nov. 1 and 2) and a performance at Spectrum Center in Charlotte on Nov. 6.

Elton John Columbia Song List

Bennie and the Jets

All the Young Girls Love Alice

I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues

Border Song

Tiny Dancer

Philadelphia Freedom

Indian Sunset

Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be a Long, Long Time)

Take Me to the Pilot

Someone Saved My Life Tonight


Candle in the Wind

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding

Burn Down the Mission



Sad Songs (Say So Much)

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

The Bitch Is Back

I’m Still Standing

Crocodile Rock

Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting


Your Song

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.