Fresno Beehive

Elton John won’t be playing Fresno again. He said farewell in the best possible way

Only super fans sit in the front row for Elton John

Two Elton John super fans talk about seeing their favorite performer just as the show begins Tuesday night at Save Mart Center in Fresno
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Two Elton John super fans talk about seeing their favorite performer just as the show begins Tuesday night at Save Mart Center in Fresno

Elton John has a tell.

At the end of a song, if it felt good, like really good, like the band just nailed the tune and the whole crowd knows it, he picks up and slams the lid on his piano and does a quick scream.

It’s a thing that happened early and often during the singer’s Tuesday night tour stop at the Save Mart Center.

John is retiring when his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour ends in 2021. So, while he’s made Fresno a tour stop for close to 50 years, he won’t be playing here again.

And he performed accordingly, giving the packed-to-the-rafters crowd a nearly three-hour show that felt equal parts rock concert and cultural event. The band didn’t leave any time for the set to drag. They played straight through the first hour-and-half, before taking a quick break (and a costume change). John changed again before the encore.

In all, John performed a career-spanning 24 songs, interspersed with insight into his writing process (he’s never written a song in the same room as Bernie Taupin), a bit of trivia (he shares a birthday with Aretha Franklin) and an introduction of his band mates.

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Elton John performs “Bennie and the Jets” to open the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour appearance at the Save Mart Center on Tuesday night, Jan. 15, 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

His work from “The Lion King” didn’t make it into the set.

So, the concert was missing a few fan favorites. John admitted as much.

“If I left out your favorite song tonight, I apologize,” he said, before jumping into “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.”

Fans arrive early at the Save Mart Center leading into Elton John's performance in Fresno.

The whole show was played to maximum effect, thanks in good part to the tour’s video production team, which created a series of stunning visuals that at times seemed like films running across the entire stage (the surrealistic cartoon playing through “Someone Save My Life Tonight” was a great example).

While farewell tours seem to be the norm for aging rock bands (Kiss kicks of a second final tour later this month), John doesn’t look or sound like a performer at the end of his career.

It’s obvious he’ll miss slamming down that piano lid.

He admitted that much, too.

“The greatest thing for me as a musician is to play to another human being.”

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Random observations

Those who missed the show, or want to hear it again, can find it for $19.95 on the Peex app.

Even with the sequined tux and tails, John was rather conservatively dressed, all things considered.. He once played a show in a Donald Duck costume, after all.

The fans weren’t afraid to dress up, including Fresno pseudo-celeb/furniture salesman Crazy Bernie Siomiak, who looked at home (or at least not that out of place) in a shiny gold suit and a sparkling crown. Another fan had on a pair of super-authentic-looking silver high heel boots. Dozens had giant sparkling glasses and feather boas.

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“Crazy Bernie” Siomiak, right, who says he has seen Elton John 25 times, watches as the superstar takes the stage to open the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour appearance at the Save Mart Center on Tuesday night, Jan. 15, 2019 in Fresno. Siomiak owns Crazy Bernie Furniture in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com



Guitar nerds no doubt noticed Davey Johnstone played a reverse Flying V, a really odd shaped guitar that I have never seen on stage before. He also played a custom-painted Goodbye Yellow Brick Road guitar.

We only got the eight-minute version of “Rocket Man,” a full four minutes shorter than when he played the arena in 2003.

Set list

  • Bennie and the Jets
  • All the 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
  • Levon
  • Candle in the Wind
  • Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
  • Burn Down the Mission
  • Believe
  • Daniel
  • 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

Encore

  • Your Song
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Elton John stops Jan. 15, 2019 at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, CA, on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. The piano-playing musician has been coming to Fresno since 1971, when he played Selland Arena.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

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Joshua Tehee covers breaking news, with a focus on entertainment and a heavy emphasis on the Central Valley music scene. You can see him share the area’s top entertainment options Friday mornings on KMPH’s “Great Day.”

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