Richard Ashcroft will join Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and their touring band to headline Saturday 11 June 2016
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IQ talks to the power players who helped make Sir Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour a record-breaking smash
By Gordon Masson on 11 Jul 2023
Having set a new world record for the highest-grossing tour in history, Elton John brought the final curtain down on an extraordinary 50-plus years of touring when he took to the stage at Stockholm’s Tele2 Arena on 8 July. Gordon Masson talks to some of the people who made the extraordinary Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour a reality…
In January 2018, when Elton John announced that Farewell Yellow Brick Road would be his last tour, little did anyone know that his final bow would be more than five years later, after the coronavirus pandemic forcibly delayed his touring retirement.
With the legendary star turning 76 earlier this year, he has spoken about his desire to spend more time with his family – artist manager husband David Furnish and children Zachary (12) and Elijah (10) – and therefore started plotting his final tour when he was on the road with the Wonderful Crazy Night Tour.
“We started having this conversation [about the farewell tour] in 2016/17,” says Rocket Music Entertainment Group’s Keith Bradley, who has been working with Elton John for more than 40 years and is the artist’s de facto agent outside of North America, as well as tour director on Farewell Yellow Brick Road.
Taking up the tale, Furnish, tells IQ, “It’s been well documented – when we looked at our boys’ school schedule, we saw that it was incompatible with the way our life was. So, we needed to get him off the road and do a big farewell tour.”
“I gave them an idea of what we were thinking in terms of the number of shows and the amount of money. And everyone thought I’d lost my mind”
Bradley reveals that Rocket’s management spoke to both Live Nation and AEG Presents about proposals for Elton’s final bow and chose the latter, who he describes as “just brilliant partners”.
“David and I flew to LA to meet with Jay Marciano at AEG, and I gave them an idea of what we were thinking in terms of the number of shows and the amount of money. And everyone thought I’d lost my mind,” Bradley states, noting that his prediction of 300 dates for the tour may have raised an eyebrow or two, but in reality, he expected a great deal more. “In my head, it was going to be closer to 400 shows.”
Heartache All Over The World
Bradley confirms that the original schedule would have seen the Dodger Stadium shows in Los Angeles last November being the final dates of the farewell tour, albeit two years earlier, in 2021. “This year’s European leg should have been in the pandemic time period, as should have been Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. But sadly, that had to be truncated… There’s a lot of stuff that fell off the tour, which was disappointing for sure.”
Furnish agrees, naming Brazil as a huge market for Elton, while “China has opened up more and also Japan.” He observes, “In retrospect, Elton wishes he’d toured Japan more as he didn’t quite put as much of a footprint down there. So, we were excited at the possibility of going back in a big way with [the farewell] tour. But alas, looking at those markets post-lockdown, with inflation, increased fuel costs, air freight, shipping… that, unfortunately, just took them off the table.”
But he notes that the record-breaking Disney livestream of the Dodgers Stadium concert “gave those fans at least an opportunity to see the concert if they couldn’t get there in person”.
“I’m always looking for ways to make Elton discoverable and relevant to a young audience”
As CEO of Rocket Entertainment, Furnish has been managing his husband’s career for the past eight years, during which he masterminded a strategy to expand Elton’s fanbase by exposing him and his music to younger generations – a campaign from which promoters around the world have reaped the rewards.
“The younger demographic stuff was something that I felt passionate about because nobody in our organisation, when I took over, even uttered the word ‘digital,’” reveals Furnish. “So, I spent a lot of time looking at places where young people were discovering music and where I thought Elton could have a really authentic presence.”
For example, a meeting between Furnish and Jimmy Iovine, who at the time was setting up Beats Radio (now Apple Music), provided a perfect platform for music-obsessive Elton to exercise his A&R skills. “It gave Elton a really natural home on a digital music streaming platform,” Furnish notes. “I’m always looking for ways to make Elton discoverable and relevant to a young audience. Most recently, he did the first concert on the Roblox platform at the same time as the Dodger Stadium concerts happened – we put elements of the Roblox show in the stadium show and a cut-down version of the concert on the platform itself.”
The biographical movie, Rocketman, also helped introduce the star and his music to a new audience.
“We worked for a long time to bring out Elton’s story in a way that they would find entertaining rather than just the usual biopic, which is why we did it as a musical fantasy film,” explains Furnish. “I think young people connect with him there because of the story of addiction, loving yourself, rejection and acceptance from family, sexuality – all things that young people talk about and relate to today. Elton has lived that life and continues to do so.”
“When Jay Marciano went to the first meeting to discuss the tour, he led with a strong marketing proposal and a vision to make Farewell Yellow Brick Road the greatest tour of all time”
Rocket’s COO, Luke Lloyd-Davies, says that prior to Furnish taking over management duties, “there were lots of points of entry to Elton in terms of strategic vision. When David came on board, he appointed me as chief operating officer to put in place Elton and David’s vision for the future.”
Noting that Elton has historically played on average around 100 shows a year, Lloyd-Davies believes the skills of tour director Bradley and agent Howard Rose played a significant role in generating interest. “In America, they would operate and navigate in territories outside of the major markets in the build-up to this big farewell tour. So, when we hit the major territories and big cities, demand was through the roof.”
Enjoying a successful history with Elton’s live career, AEG Presents tasked Debra Rathwell, executive vice president global touring and talent, with overseeing the epic Farewell Yellow Brick Road project.
“Elton and David knew that they wanted this to be a worldwide tour; they wanted to play to as many of Elton’s fans as possible, and they understood that it would take multiple years to accomplish that goal,” says Rathwell. “When Jay Marciano went to the first meeting to discuss the tour, he led with a strong marketing proposal and a vision to make Farewell Yellow Brick Road the greatest tour of all time, and Elton and David were thinking along the same lines. It’s safe to say that they were pretty much in agreement about the vision for the tour.”
Loyalty played a major role in that vision.
“The right thing to do was to respect the international promoters who had promoted Elton John shows for most of his career”
“Jay agreed with Elton and David that the right thing to do was to respect the international promoters who had promoted Elton John shows for most of his career,” says Rathwell. “It was fortuitous that one of those promoters was our co-promoting partner, Barrie Marshall, who became the promoter of all of the UK shows and the co-promoter of all of the European shows.” In Australia, meanwhile, long-time promoter Michael Chugg took the reins, alongside AEG-affiliated partners Frontier Touring.
For his part, Marshall comments, “It is a source of great pride that Elton has trusted us to present so many shows and we are sincerely grateful for the opportunities. We never forget that he had many other choices of people to work with, so this is extremely special to every- one in the company, and we have tried always to honour his belief in us.”
Rathwell reveals that the first FYBR planning meeting in 2017 involved tour director Bradley; agent Howard Rose; Marciano; Marshall and Doris Dixon from Marshall Arts; and Donna DiBenedetto, VP of touring for AEG Presents. “The first order of business was to make it as manageable as possible, so we divided the entire tour into two: Round One and Round Two.”
Round Two would be a complex affair.
The last date of Round One was at Bankwest Stadium in Paramatta, Sydney on 7 March 2020. Four days later, the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. Elton had completed 179 shows but was only halfway through the tour.
“A lot of the UK shows recently – and the London ones specifically – saw people holding their ticket for something like 1,300 days from the moment they bought it”
After a 22-month hiatus and multiple reschedules, Elton John played his first post-Covid gig at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans on 19 January 2022. “Though we had very stringent protocols in place, Elton John had to announce that he had Covid on 25 January, and two shows in Dallas had to be postponed,” says Rathwell.
But while there have been postponements aplenty, the only shows that had to actually be cancelled due to Covid restrictions were four Canadian arena dates – and that’s because Canadian authorities were only allowing venues to operate at 50% capacity at the time.
The spiralling post-pandemic costs brought obvious dilemmas for a tour whose tickets had gone on sale in early 2018.
“Thankfully, when we released new dates, we saw a huge surge in interest, and that made the economics much better and more manageable,” says operations chief Lloyd-Davies. He adds that the patience of the fans has been unprecedented. “A lot of the UK shows recently – and the London ones specifically – saw people holding their ticket for something like 1,300 days from the moment they bought it back in January 2018.”
Barrie Marshall notes that for re rescheduled European shows, team Elton “[tried] as much as possible to keep the same ‘days of the week’ to make it easier for the public to change their plans. We are all so impressed to see the loyalty of his fans who waited so patiently – but they have all been rewarded with mega shows.”
“The ‘ask’ from Emily Eavis was the most serendipitous timing in the world”
Covid posed other unique issues. Citing the concertina effect on dates, Bradley believes that only Elton John could achieve the run of shows that he did. “In New York, we played eight arena shows in Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Nassau Coliseum in New ark, and then three months later we played two stadium shows at MetLife. The gap between should have been at least a year,” opines Bradley. “I’m incredibly proud that we manoeuvred through everything that was thrown at us.”
Indeed, while the plan to use the Dodger Stadium shows as the final goodbye may have become another pandemic anomaly, the flip side was the prolonged tour schedule opened a door for Elton John to make his Glastonbury Festival debut.
“The ‘ask’ from Emily Eavis was the most serendipitous timing in the world,” says Furnish. “[Glastonbury, on 25 June] wrapped beautifully around the Paris tour dates [on 21, 27, and 28 June]. It would have been physically impossible to drop a massive gig like Glastonbury, with the backup support and crew and everything that we need, if we had been touring in another part of the world. So, I’m convinced this was meant to happen.”
With more than 330 shows across North America, Australasia, and Europe, the tour has relied on the local knowledge of dozens of promoters, all of whom have been determined to make the farewell experience as memorable as possible for El- ton and his band, as well as the ticket-buying fans.
“I have known Elton since the early ‘70s, while my touring relationship with him started in the late ‘90s and involves lots of standout moments playing all sorts of places in Australia: Elton has a thirst to play to audiences who may never get the chance otherwise to see him,” says Michael Chugg of Chugg Entertainment.
“The fact that he’s worked with Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa and those sorts of combinations have added to a younger crowd wanting to see this absolute legend”
Heralding Elton’s ability to shine a spotlight on other artists, Chugg tells IQ, “We played outdoors in Darwin, and I was backstage with him when Gurrumul, the blind, indigenous iconic musician was playing. Elton loved it so much that he asked the manager to drive 60 miles to get him 25 CDs. Two weeks later, all these heavyweight UK industry people started to reach out to Gurrumul. That’s Elton.”
Despite the disappointment in many territories where the farewell tour could not visit, there were beneficiaries as well – Chugg being one of them. “We finished the original 40 down under shows just over a week before the lockdowns, but we lost two shows in Auckland, which Elton promised to make up,” reports Chugg. “In January this year, he brought the whole monster show back, allowing us to programme additional stadium shows in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Christchurch, and Newcastle.”
Kim Bloem, at Mojo Concerts, is another promoter to benefit from the pandemic interruption, as the rescheduled dates allowed her to put an extra stadium date on sale in the Netherlands. Bloem took over Dutch promoting duties for Elton John in 2016, when Mojo founder Leon Ramakers took a step back.
“On this tour, we did two shows in June 2019 at the Ziggo Dome, which were phenomenal. At that time, we did not think he would be coming back. But after Covid, we were able to add a show at GelreDome in Arnhem,” reports Bloem. “His audience just seems to get bigger all the time – there were a lot of kids in the GelreDome. The fact that he’s worked with Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa and those sorts of combinations have added to a younger crowd wanting to see this absolute legend.
“At the GelreDome, you could sense that he felt it was the last show in front of those Dutch fans as he made such a great connection with the audience. I was a bit sad because I realised that it might be the final time I see Elton perform. His songs resonate with me and my family so much, so it gave me goosebumps and it gave me tears but also laughter. It was a joyous show.”
“The production was very ticket-selling friendly with the aim of giving as many people as possible the chance to see the show”
In Italy, D’Alessandro and Galli have been promoting Elton for 35 years. “There are so many memories, from the arena in Verona to Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples and the unforgettable last show in Milan,” says company co-founder Mimmo D’Alessandro.
“We managed to host the farewell shows in two iconic locations – the city walls in Lucca and San Siro Stadium in Milan, which allowed close to 80,000 people to see Elton live for the last time. We are incredibly proud. These shows will stay forever in the memories of thousands of fans.”
Klaus-Peter Matziol at Peter Rieger Konzertagentur had 20 dates on the tour: seven in 2019, two stadium shows in 2022, and 11 arena performances this year. “Since 1999, we have done over 100 shows with Elton John in Germany, selling over 1m tickets,” he says. “Farewell Yellow Brick Road was the perfect highlight, staging an extraordinary, emotional farewell show.
“The production was very ticket-selling friendly with the aim of giving as many people as possible the chance to see the show. We supported this with last-minute campaigns, social media tour-book reporting from the road, and having a waiting list for tickets.”
Further north, Tor Nielsen at Live Nation Sweden estimates he’s been involved in around a dozen Elton John tours. “We’ve done shows in Lithuania, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, and tons of shows in Norway. Sometimes we play B markets and sometimes A markets: it’s been a lot of fun.”
“The great thing about this show is there is no such thing as a bad seat: the sightlines are magnificent”
Nielsen, too, tips his hat to Furnish and the Rocket team for their work on expanding the audience demographics. “When we released tickets on the show day in 2022 – sideview seats, for instance – a lot of the people who bought those tickets were under 20 years of age.
The Big Picture
The farewell tour production itself is spectacular, with a sweeping, curved stage that in the arena configuration dips so low that those in the front row almost appear to be on stage themselves.
In terms of the vision for the show, the core team consisted of creative directors Furnish, Tony King and Sam Pattinson, lighting designer Patrick Woodroffe, Ray Winkler from set design experts Stufish, and tour director Bradley.
Noting the unique design of the stage, Bradley says, “Very early on, Tony King, myself, and Ray from Stufish were moving round apples and biscuits on a table, working out where everything was going to go. We presented the concept to Elton and David, where we had the conversation about if it was going to work for everybody in terms of the musicians, the crew who had to put it together and, of course, the audience.
“The great thing about this show is there is no such thing as a bad seat: the sightlines are magnificent. You can be at the side of the stage and there’s no impingement whatsoever. In reality, the side views are some of the best seats in the house.”
“You don’t want to use all your tricks in the first half of the show – there should be something in every song to keep the audience engaged”
Having such a rich and successful tour history, Elton and his Rocket Music Entertainment Group have a trusted pool of contractors and suppliers that they rely upon to realise their live performance vision. In the case of the farewell tour, PRG provided lighting; Clair Global supplied sound equipment; TAIT constructed the stage and proscenium (in collaboration with Stageco for the outdoor shows); Solotech took care of video; trucking services were the realm of Transam; and Phoenix buses carried personnel from city to city while Rock-it Global handled freight.
As one of the core creative minds tasked with developing the production set and aesthetics, lighting designer Woodroffe tells IQ he has been working on Elton John tours since 1994: “This is my 30th year with him,” he says, revealing that the creative team spent an intense three weeks on a sound stage in Lititz, Pennsylvania, honing the production’s content and “figuring out how we could stitch it all together”.
“You don’t want to use all your tricks in the first half of the show – there should be something in every song to keep the audience engaged,” says Woodroffe, citing the content for Have Mercy on the Criminal as just one moment that surprises the audience with something they were not expecting.
“You never want to overpower the raw performance of the artist and musicians with lighting and video,” says Woodroffe. “You can make each song more poignant and touching, or fun, with the way you light it, and that’s ultimately my task.
“Elton is very prescriptive about his setlist – he basically delivered it to us nine months in advance and then let us get on with things without interference: it’s an incredibly generous and trusting thing for an artist to do.”
And highlighting the leadership role of Furnish in steering the creative team, Woodroffe also applauds Sam Pattinson’s role in commissioning various artists to create original video content for each of the songs on the setlist: “The videos just set the production apart,” he states.
“When I first went to concerts, you’d get turfed out if you took a photo or even went in with a camera. Now everybody takes pictures or films the show”
Furnish, who came up with the Farewell Yellow Brick Road concept, generously praises his creative colleagues for the look of the set. “It was really the genius of the team at Stufish and Tony King who came up with the idea of the gold frame [around the stage] being made up of key moments from Elton’s life,” he says.
Explaining the thinking behind the impressive feat of having Elton and his grand piano traverse the stage, Furnish says, “When I first went to concerts, you’d get turfed out if you took a photo or even went in with a camera. Now everybody takes pictures or films the show. With Elton stationary behind the piano on one side of the stage, the travelator gave an opportunity for everybody in the venue to at least feel that he was closer to them at key moments.”
Some of the standout elements of the show are the videos that accompany each song on the setlist. Furnish tells IQ, “We spent a lot of time thinking about what the songs meant to Elton and how, in some instances, they had been represented in the past but how that might not necessarily work today.
“So, there’s a David LaChapelle film for Candle in the Wind where he recreated the last photoshoot of Marilyn Monroe. It’s a masterpiece – a brilliant piece of filmmaking. It touches Elton on a couple of levels. Obviously, the song is about Marilyn Monroe. But it was also Bert Stern’s last photograph session with her, and Elton is a big collector – we own some photographs from that shoot. It’s deeply personal in that regard.”
It’s not just the promoters who boast long-standing relationships with Sir Elton, as he has also remained steadfastly loyal to suppliers and crew.
“You come away from the shows thinking, ‘Why are they stopping?’ Elton has never been more popular; he’s still at the top of his game!”
That loyalty has been crucial, however, with Bradley noting, “We’ve been on the road for five and a half years, which is longer than the run for most Broadway plays.”
In addition to lighting, PRG supplies the tour’s rigging. “We first became involved in the planning for the tour back in 2017, while the first actual dates were in August 2018 in the United States,” says PRG’s Jon Cadbury, who pays tribute to colleague Curry Grant and his team, who put the first US outing together in 2018 at TAIT’s facility in Lititz, Pennsylvania and have looked after FYBR everywhere outside Europe.
“The show involves very careful prep, and Elton brought a lot of crew from the United States over to Europe with him – in the core crew, there are five regular US guys and three regulars from the UK, all of whom have been with him for
many years. So, although jumping from indoors to outdoors – arenas to stadiums – is a challenge, these things are always surmountable when you have an experienced crew. The great thing about this production is that the core team has been together for a very long time, and it all feels like a big family, so it has been a privilege to spend time with them.”
Cadbury continues, “What comes across strongly is that Elton loves performing and enjoys being on stage with his band. And that feeling continues backstage – it’s just a very well managed and well put together production. In fact, you come away from the shows thinking, ‘Why are they stopping?’ Elton has never been more popular; he’s still at the top of his game!”
The stunning set, featuring that downstage piano platform that traverses and pirouettes across the stage, was constructed by TAIT. The complex production houses two video screens – a main backdrop and a video ramp – as well as a platform for the band. The stage itself sweeps low in a curve so that fans feel like they are with- in touching distance of the star. The design’s golden proscenium surrounds the massive video wall, bedecked with iconic imagery from Elton’s colourful career.
TAIT’s Shannon Nickerson has been working on the farewell tour project since early 2017.
“For the rotating piano, we worked with the different radiuses to make sure the piano could fit in both corners”
“I know at that point Rocket and Stufish had already been working on it for about a year, so when they came to us, they had a concept, and then we jumped in from that point,” she says.
“For the rotating piano, we worked with the different radiuses to make sure the piano could fit in both corners. The stage holds an arc that they had set for sightlines, but we also removed a large section so that they could fill as many seats as possible.”
That eye-catching design has also been seen by millions of fans at the outdoor shows, thanks to a clever collaboration with Stageco. “The stadium show had huge tusks built by Stageco. But they constructed a sub deck, allowing the arena set to be also used in the stadiums,” says Nickerson.
Another feature of the set is the artwork around the arch. “It’s one of my favourite things about the production,” states Nickerson. “We worked with Jacqui Pyle who built maquettes that were a 6-to-1 scale. And then we took those, scanned them, and moved them up to the full- scale needed before sculpting and painting them.”
Keeping the surprises rolling until the very end, the stage is also fitted with a platform that allows the artist to make a slow ascent toward the video screen as he bids farewell to the fans before exiting through a portal in the video wall.
“Elton has a global appeal like no one else, and to be able to sell out arenas and stadiums on your farewell tour is very special”
Nickerson tells IQ, “It’s a complicated setup, as we had to figure in the pitch of the LED and the video wall and make sure it all works seamlessly. But you don’t know that there’s a door there for the whole show, and then suddenly it appears for his exit before the video wall closes behind him.”
Bradley acknowledges that in addition to all the gimmicks, bells and whistles, the audio itself is world-class. “We’re a very sound-oriented organisation and always have been,” he notes. “It’s always been about playing live and trying to create the best you can for the guy in the audience. We’ve been very fortunate over the decades, and the guy we’ve got right now, Matt Herr from Clair Global, is super. Same with our monitor guy, Alan Richardson, who goes back to Frank Sinatra. We’ve got very good people.”
Clair Global’s general manager Scott Appleton says, “Elton has a global appeal like no one else, and to be able to sell out arenas and stadiums on your farewell tour is very special. But he’s been to places nobody else would go to over the decades – he’s played Anchorage Alaska; he played the university in Newark, Delaware one time – and that’s amassed a huge audience for him.”
Appleton says Clair owes Elton John a world of gratitude. “The company was started by Roy and Gene Clair in 1966, and the relationship with Elton began in 1971. Roy said Elton was pivotal in handing them a successful business. The Elton John name to the company and Clair family is just massive, and we cannot thank the man enough for what he’s done for this company.”
Can I Put You On
Farewell Yellow Brick Road has now sold more than 6 million tickets, delighting the promoters who have also been afforded the chance to say goodbye to Sir Elton John.
“The fact that it had to be re-scheduled more than once seemed somehow to give it even more momentum”
“Elton’s shows have always been superb, but this production has enhanced and surpassed everything that has gone before,” says Marshall at Marshall Arts, who has been working with Elton for 27 years. “The content in some of the videos show a lot of history – reminding people of special moments. His musicians are amazing and the telepathy between Elton and the band is a joy to watch.”
“The fact that it had to be re-scheduled more than once seemed somehow to give it even more momentum. Elton and David were kind enough to invite the crew and touring party to their home as a final get together, and Jay Marciano announced so many records that had been broken – it was quite a staggering list. Jay has really been the driving force for this tour – he’s a remarkable man with remarkable talent and his care for Elton, David and everyone involved has been wonderful to see,” adds Marshall.
“It’s a great honour to be part of Elton John’s very successful farewell tour,” says Stefan Wyss at Gadget abc Entertainment in Switzerland, which promoted a stadium show last year in Berne, as well as two sold-out arena shows in early July in Zürich’s Hallenstadion.
“The arena shows were originally announced for 2020 and had to be postponed several times due to Covid,” continues Wyss. “Those shows were sold out long before the stadium show was announced, but we had to postpone them until a year after the stadium. Luckily, there were almost no refunds – no one wants to miss this show.”
The tour is a personal highlight for Ben Martin at Marshall Arts, which in addition to being the promoter in Elton’s native UK, has coordinated all the European dates. “In terms of duration and number of cities, I’ve never worked on anything bigger,” he says. “We’ve had three tour legs through Europe, but there have been very few repeats – we only tended to go to market in each city once, so we never overplayed things, while we were able to pick off all the key cities.
“Elton has always had a multigenerational audience, but the work done by David Furnish and Rachael Paley to broaden that fanbase worked perfectly”
“There was such a demand everywhere, so that even when we had to reschedule shows because of Elton’s hip operation, people still did not ask for refunds – it really was the golden ticket they wanted to hang on to.”
Martin discloses that Marshall Arts were also unexpected beneficiaries of extra shows. “The ten shows at The O2 were a result of the rescheduling and re-routing, and because we’ve been promoting Elton since 1997, from a marketing perspective, I knew exactly which channels to run to reach his fans.”
He adds, “Elton has always had a multigenerational audience, but the work done by David Furnish and Rachael Paley to broaden that fanbase worked perfectly, from his Snickers advert, John Lewis advert, tie-ups with Britney Spears and Dua Lipa, to the book and the film – it’s been brilliantly executed.”
Just Like Belgium
Not all of the tour’s promoters were veterans of Elton John’s touring past. First-timer Pascal Van De Velde at Greenhouse Talent in Ghent was determined to be involved in the historic farewell outing. “Elton’s music is bigger than life, and when I saw that there was a book coming out and the movie of his life, I totally believed the tour would be special – and Barrie and Doris at Marshall Arts were gracious enough to allow me to promote the Belgian shows,” he says.
“Elton John has reinvented himself many times during his career, and his appeal just spans the generations. There were 16-year-old girls crying with emotion at the end of the shows – it was a beautiful mix of audience, aged eight to 88.”
“It has been a long, exciting road, and it was very hard to say farewell”
Van De Velde also flags the loyalty of the fans. “Tickets were sold in the fall of 2019, but 95% of the fans held onto them until the concerts. And on the show days, the no-shows were just 1%, which is less than for a normal show, and way, way better than the 25% no-shows we saw for a lot of the Covid-postponed gigs.
“I have to applaud everyone involved: Jay Marciano’s team at AEG were super, while Ben Martin and all at Marshall Arts are a pleasure to work with. For such a big production, it’s like clockwork, and if one small cog isn’t working, it
can all fall apart. But Farewell Yellow Brick Road was flawless, and I can understand why it has set new records.”
Matziol at Peter Rieger Konzertagentur says, “It was – and always has been – a huge honour to be the touring partner for an exceptional artist like Elton John. We would like to take the opportunity to thank Keith Bradley, [TM] DC Parmet, Barrie Marshall, Doris Dixon, and many, many others for this outstanding relationship. It has been a long, exciting road, and it was very hard to say farewell.”
In Australia, Chugg says being involved in the farewell tour is a highlight of his 60-year career, and he has booked tickets to fly to Sweden for the charismatic star’s final show. “We played 50 shows to 1m people in Australia and New Zealand. I will always be grateful to AEG, Elton, and his team for allowing me to be part of it,” says Chugg.
That concert in Stockholm on 8 July was the 331st gig on the tour. Despite being in charge of the superstar’s final tour date, Live Nation’s Tor Nielsen was not feeling under pressure. “All the shows are farewell shows – it’s farewell Bergen, farewell Gothenburg, farewell Stockholm…” he says.
“Having the opportunity to be a part of the Elton John Farewell Yellow Brick Tour has been the honour of a lifetime”
“The production, the band, and Elton himself are incredible, and I’m not surprised that Farewell Yellow Brick Road has broken records everywhere… Artists like Elton John are not made any more. He is one of a kind.”
“Having the opportunity to be a part of the Elton John Farewell Yellow Brick Tour has been the honour of a lifetime,” says AEG’s Rathwell. “I cannot imagine the last six years of my life without Elton John and all of the members of our close-knit team. Jay Marciano and I often chat about what an extraordinary experience it has been to be involved with Elton John, his team, and this tour. We have never worked with such a strong team of professionals who work co- operatively and collaboratively.”
Barrie Marshall states, “Nobody who has seen this show across the world will ever forget it – truly a memory for all time… One thing is for sure, his creative genius and dedication to all music, is never going to go away – and we can all be very thankful for that.”
The Last Song
Nobody is more thrilled than Furnish. “The tour has outperformed all of our expectations. We knew we would do well, but we didn’t set out to be the highest-grossing tour in history,” he says.
“It’s just been a total team effort. Everybody rose to the occasion because I think they felt that they were part of something very special. Elton sets a very high bar; he goes on stage and thinks every show has to be as good as or better than the last one. He’s really focused and dedicated, and I think everybody feels inspired by that.”
“I don’t think Elton’s ever going to stop performing – it would be telling an artist never to paint again”
COO Lloyd-Davies observes. “I don’t think Elton’s ever going to stop performing – it would be telling an artist never to paint again. But his days of touring are definitely over – he would personally find it quite disingenuous if he went back out on the road.”
But with rumours of Broadway and West End projects and a touring exhibition circulating, Lloyd-Davies discloses, “We’re not putting on our slippers and watching boxsets. I can’t ever imagine Elton being that guy. He wants to write more. He wants to record more, collaborate more. There’s been talk about an Elton John musical at some point. The whole immersive space is fascinating to us, but we don’t want to rush into that.”
Furnish confirms new projects are definitely in the mix. “I’ve been with Elton for 30 years, and he’s been on the road for 28 of them. Performing live is such a vital part of who he is, so I hope we can find a non-travelling, limited-run way for him to keep his fingers nimble and his voice flexed and continue to do what he does. It’s part of what keeps him alive, and he has a way of bringing people together that in a divided world is increasingly hard to find.
He concludes, “Elton is like a shark: he has to keep moving forward to stay alive. He has the most extraordinary drive. Believe me, it’s not like you’re never going to see or hear from him again.”
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