Elton John bids farewell to ‘one of my hometowns’ at his last Atlanta show

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

The show paid tribute to John’s six-decade career in music as he prepares to retire from the stage.

Elton John pulled out all the stops for his last Atlanta show — the colorful costumes, the powerful piano, the rich vocals — for a performance that paid tribute to his enduring legacy and adoring fans.

He performed 23 songs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Thursday, spanning 11 different albums and reaching four of the six decades of his music career. However, most of the set featured songs from his peak in the 1970s and some of his most popular songs.

Crowd-pleasing hits — including “Rocket Man,” “Tiny Dancer” and “Crocodile Rock” — were sprinkled throughout a varied setlist. In fact, all John had to do was play the first chords on the piano, and the audience immediately responded in recognition, cheering, dancing and singing.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

John arrived in a white, bedazzled tailcoat and pink, jewel-rimmed glasses. He waved to the crowd and went straight to the piano to start playing one of his biggest hits, “Bennie and the Jets.”

But the performer wasn’t the only one who dressed up for the show.

Thousands of fans poured into the stadium, many decked out in sparkles, feather boas, colorful glasses and fun outfits, taking the opportunity to mimic the over-the-top outfits John has been known for since the 1970s.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

The singer not only brought out those who have loved his music since his rise to stardom; he also attracted a younger crowd, many singing along to songs released decades before they were born.

The show started on a somewhat slower note as John eased into his setlist and picked up momentum with song five, “Tiny Dancer.” Although the 75-year-old opted not to sing the falsetto notes, his vocals packed a punch, settling in his rich mid-range where he could comfortably belt and showcase his vibrato.

As the show went on, the band hit a groove and took off during “Rocket Man.” The musicians spent several minutes riffing on the song’s melody. The instrumentals throughout the concert were strong: the guitar solos, the many elements of percussion, and John’s piano skills all carried the performance to a higher level.

The band’s chemistry should come as no surprise — lead guitarist Davey Johnstone, percussionist Ray Cooper and drummer Nigel Olsson have been playing with John since the 1970s. Other band members, Kim Bullard on keyboards, John Mahon on percussion and Matt Bissonette on bass guitar, joined more than 10 years ago and easily fit into the onstage dynamic.

John performed “Candle in the Wind,” his famous tribute to the late Marilyn Monroe, alone on stage with just the piano. The audience raised their cell phone flashlights and willingly joined in as his backup vocals, a chorus of voices that echoed the singer throughout the softer, more soulful ballad.

Credit: Natrice Miller

Credit: Natrice Miller

John sneaked off stage for a quick costume change and came back wearing blue sparkle-rimmed glasses with orange lenses and a bejeweled, patterned jacket to play an increasingly dynamic second half.

After some of the slower, heavier songs like “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” earlier in the show, John gave the audience renewed energy with “I’m Still Standing” and the raucous “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.”

But fan favorite “Crocodile Rock,” which John dedicated to his fans, had the crowd excited like no other, dancing and singing. A grinning John even took a moment to get up from the piano and dance in the middle of the song.

To end the night, he revisited the nostalgic “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” a song about returning to one’s roots. John said after the tour ends, he plans to spend more time with his family.

Highlight reels that played on screens during several of his songs showed John in photos and videos at different ages and in various performances, giving the audience a moment to reminisce as he closes out a six-decade career.

John has called Atlanta his American home since he became a part-time resident in the 1990s. He bought a penthouse in Buckhead, became a Braves fan, frequented downtown restaurants and is sometimes spotted around the city.

While it may have been his last time performing in Atlanta, John promised the crowd that he could still be found around town.

“You might see me walking around the streets in Atlanta because I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’ve lived here for 30 years, and I’ve loved every single minute. So I will take you with me in my heart, in my soul, and I’ll never forget you.”