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Elton John’s ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’ world tour is nearing its end, but is he really going to retire?

Elton John, Madison Square Garden Feb. 22, 2022
Elton John will perform at Petco Park Wednesday. It’s the second San Diego stop on his farewell tour, following his 2019 show at Pechanga Arena. He is show here on stage at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Feb. 22, 2022.
(Greg Allen/AP)

The legendary singer-songwriter returns for a sold-out show at Petco Park. It’s the second time his farewell tour has come to San Diego. Will it be the last? And does his future lay online with avatars and Roblox?

Is it the end of the yellow brick road for Elton John?

Is his sold-out concert at Petco Park Wednesday the final curtain for him in San Diego?

Is his future going to largely be a virtual one?

Is he really going to leave the limelight when his now four-year-old world farewell tour finally concludes next July with two concerts in Stockholm, Sweden?

The answers to those questions are: probably not, definitely maybe, perhaps, and, well, let’s wait and see.

Elton John will retire after one final and very extensive farewell world concert tour, which will last three years and include more than 300 concerts.

“After the tour finishes, I’m very much looking forward to closing off that chapter of my life by saying farewell to life on the road. I need to dedicate more time to raising my children,” John said, in early 2018, when he announced his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” concert trek.

But a lot has happened since then to make this enduring superstar reconsider things.

After kicking off his tour in late 2018, John was on the road for much of 2019. His itinerary included a memorable concert here in early 2019 at Pechanga Arena San Diego. (John first performed at that venue in 1972, back when it was known as the San Diego Sports Arena.)

Elton John had only performed the first two songs of his Tuesday night “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” retirement tour concert in San Diego when he turned to the audience and apologized.

John unexpectedly spent most of 2020 and 2021 with his family, after the COVID-19 pandemic led to a slew of his tour dates being canceled and rescheduled. A serious hip injury in the late summer of 2021 led him to postpone the remainder of his European tour dates that year. Most were rescheduled for 2023.

“At the end of my summer break I fell awkwardly on a hard surface and have been in considerable pain and discomfort in my hip ever since,” he said in a September 2021 statement on his social media pages. “Despite intensive physio and specialist treatment, the pain has continued to get worse and is leading to increasing difficulties moving.

“I have been advised to have an operation as soon as possible to get me back to full fitness and make sure there are no long-term complications. I will be undertaking a program of intensive physiotherapy that will ensure a full recovery and a return to full mobility without pain.”

Elton John, Rosemont, Ill. on Feb 15, 2019
Expect a colorful celebration when Elton John brings his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour to Petco Park Wednesday.
(Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP)

Dua Lipa and Britney Spears

True to his word, John returned to the stage this January for a concert at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, followed by two dates in Houston. He had to postpone his subsequent pair of concerts in Dallas, after he contracted COVID-19.

In March, John added 11 stadium shows to the 2022 North American leg of his tour, including his Petco Park performance next week.

Postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, ‘Elton John Farewell Yellow Brick Road: The Final Tour’ will now conclude its North American leg on Nov. 20, 2022, in Los Angeles, the only U.S. West Coast dates he has scheduled

His unexpected time off in 2020 and 2021 may have led John to realize that, while he won’t miss doing extended world tours, the desire to perform, collaborate and write and record new songs — or repurpose old ones — is in his blood.

Witness his recent collaborations with Britney Spears, Dua Lipa, Charlie Puth, Young Thug, Ed Sheeran, Lil Nas X and others. These pairings have helped introduce John to millions of new listeners, some too young to be familiar with the songs he contributed to the soundtrack for the hit 1994 movie “The Lion King.”

John acknowledged as much in April, saying: “I have worked in this industry for a long time, over 50 years. Even after all this time there is still the utter thrill of when you hear your new music played on air for the very first time. The fact that I get to reach a whole new generation of listeners is very special to me.”

In addition, the worldwide box office success of “Rocket Man,” the Oscar-winning 2019 biopic about John’s life, earned him yet another crop of fresh fans. Reports from England indicate that he has already recorded new music as the sequel to his 2021 album, which was aptly titled “The Lockdown Sessions.”

As for post-farewell tour performances, John — who will turn 76 in March — could well be ready to say adios to the rigors of extensive tours. This likely holds true whether they are limited to one country or span continents.

But the allure of performing and again hearing the cheers of his fans may prove too hard for him to resist. And doing a new iteration of his “The Red Piano” concert residency — which saw John perform from 21 to 50 times a year, between 2004 and 2009, at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas — could be just the ticket.

Either way, John will be launching a virtual performance Nov. 17 on Roblox, the online game platform and game creation system.

Today, Nov. 3, he debuted “Elton John Presents: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road,” a metaverse experience that offers trivia quizzes, virtual scavenger hunts and interactive challenges that set to his greatest hits. Also included is a “digital fashion show” designed so fans can “try on complete outfits or mix-and-match individual items to recreate Elton’s look on their avatar.”

In a release, John said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be launching ‘Beyond the Yellow Brick Road’ on Roblox. I’ve seen the joy that Roblox has brought to my (sons).”

John also lauded the “possibilities it creates by the ability to interact with fans in such an exciting, and forward looking way. I’ve always been myself and used my image, eyewear, and music to express myself, and Roblox really encourages that self-expression. Now my fans can do the same, and that’s really exciting.”

On stage or online, the question remains the same: Is Elton John, who first announced he would no longer perform concerts back in 1977, really the retiring kind?

Let’s wait and see.

Elton John is shown performing at his 1975 Dodger Stadium
Elton John is shown performing at his 1975 Dodger Stadium in a blue and white sequined Dodgers-inspired uniform. His upcoming Nov. 20 Dodger Stadium concert will be livestreamed on Disney+.
(Michael Ochs Archives)

Elton John livestream from Dodger Stadium

Elton John will conclude the 2022 leg of his North American farewell tour this month with three concerts in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. The third of those L.A. dates takes place Nov. 20 and will be livestreamed on Disney+ as a three-hour special.

“To feel the energy from the best fans, not only in Dodger Stadium again, but this time around the world from those watching live at home, will be truly extra special for me,” John said in a statement.

“I’m thrilled to celebrate this momentous evening globally. I hope everyone feels the power and joy of performing on a stage as iconic as Dodger’s. Just like I did almost 50 years ago.”

John first played at Dodger Stadium in 1975. That was two years after his 1973 concert at San Diego’s Balboa Stadium. The Nov. 20 livestream is a prelude to next year’s Disney Original Documentary, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: The Final Elton John Performances and the Years That Made His Legend,” a collaboration between Academy Award-nominated producer R.J. Cutler and John’s husband, David Furnish.

King Crimson is shown in 1969 in London
The pioneering English progressive-rock band King Crimson is shown in 1969, one year before Elton John came close to replacing lead singer Greg Lake (center) in the group for its second album. The band’s members, from left: guitarist Robert Fripp, drummer Michael Giles, singer/bassist Lake, multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald and lyricist Peter Sinfield, who died in February. Lake died in 2016.
(Michael Ochs Archives)

Elton John, prog-rocker?

“Me,” Elton John’s 2019 autobiography, packs a lot into its 375 pages. But there’s not a single reference to how his early career almost included a turn to progressive rock.

In early 1970, John nearly became become the new lead singer in the pioneering English progressive-rock band King Crimson, whose 1969 debut album had been hailed by The Who’s Pete Townshend as “an uncanny masterpiece.”

From David Bowie and Peter Gabriel to the members of such bands as Tool, Nirvana, Rush and Mars Volta, the range of artists who have been profoundly inspired by the shape-shifting music of King Crimson has been formidable and enduring.

Had everything clicked, John could have replaced King Crimson co-founder Greg Lake, who had left the band to co-found Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It’s unclear that would have worked, since Lake had also been King Crimson’s bass guitarist and his vocal style and John’s had little in common.

Nevertheless, John was slated to provide lead vocals on King Crimson’s second album, “In the Wake of Poseidon,” as Robert Fripp — the band’s leader, then and now — recounted in the liner notes to “The Young Person’s Guide to King Crimson” compilation album in 1976.

“Elton had been booked to sing all the songs on ‘Poseidon’ for £250 (then about $1,000) as a session singer and as I wasn’t familiar with his work, Mark Fenwick of E.G. (Records) gave me a copy of Elton’s first album,” Fripp wrote. “But his style didn’t seem right for Crimson and the album was poor, so I canceled the sessions...”

What makes this even more intriguing is that John recorded his second solo album, “Elton John,” in April 1970, after his potential King Crimson session date had fallen through.

John’s 1969 solo debut album, “Empty Sky,” had — as he writes in “Me” — “only sold a few thousand copies.”

Did he regard the aborted King Crimson recording date as merely a side session gig to earn a little extra money when times were still tough for him? Or would John have put his fledgling solo career on hold to tour with King Crimson after “Poseidon” was released?

That is a question only Elton John can answer. Maybe one day he will. Either way, some fans still hope Fripp will one day share the audition tape he has of John singing King Crimson’s near-apocalyptic “21st Century Schizoid Man.”

Elton John’s strangest album ever

Before he became a star, and then a superstar, the young Elton John — still known as Reg Dwight — was busy doing studio session recording work in London with other artists. They ranged from Tom Jones and The Hollies to, um, The Bread and Beer Band.

This led to “Reg Dwight’s Piano Goes Pop,” released in 1970. The 20-song album of cover versions features John’s renditions of The Four Tops’ “It’s All in the Game,” Cat Stevens’ “Lady D’Arbanville,” Badfinger’s “Come and Get It” and, um, Bob & Marcia’s “Young, Gifted and Black.”

John described as “insane” the album producer’s request to have him, as Reg Dwight, sing “Young, Gifted and Black,” but he recorded it nonetheless. Moreover, John wrote in his book “Me,” he loved making an album of cover versions so much that he happily recorded a sequel.

“Here’s how much I enjoyed the sessions for the covers album, this supposedly laughable artistic nadir in my professional life: I went back and did another one after my solo career took off,” he wrote in “Me,” adding: “I assure you I’m not making this up.”

Elton John ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Petco Park, 100 Park Blvd., downtown

Tickets: Sold out

Online: mlb.com/padres/tickets/concerts/elton-john

Updates

4:38 p.m. Nov. 3, 2022: This story has been updated to include the Nov. 3 announcement that Elton John will do a virtual performance Nov. 17 on Roblox, the online game platform and game creation system, and that he today debuted “Elton John Presents: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road,” an interactive metaverse experience for fans.


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