Elton John receives one last goodbye in New York


NEW YORK – Hey, nobody said retiring was easy.

Just 43 hours after Elton John bid a spectacular, permanent, never-ending farewell to the North American tour with a triumphant three-night run at Dodger Stadium capped off by a global live stream on Disney Plus, he was already back on stage, this time playing a grand piano in the middle of Fifth Avenue and singing one last, last, the final song.

John’s last actual performance in the United States, a curious and minor epilogue to his big farewell, was Tuesday night when he briefly disrupted traffic on one of America’s busiest commercial stretches to open the holiday shopping season as a performer surprise guest at Saks Fifth Avenue’s annual holiday window reveal and light show. Not the typical way you’d expect a 75-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer to follow through on the end of a 271-show stretch he began planning seven years ago.

But Saks is donating $1 million to the Elton John AIDS Foundation. And he and his family—her husband, David Furnish, and their two sons Zachary, 11, and Elijah, 9—were already heading east to return home to London. So why not?

“I can think of no more magical way to end my Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour of the USA than to be here on Fifth Avenue with my family, experiencing both my music and my work with the incorporated Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York’s most iconic holiday window shopping and light show,” John said in a perfectly articulated quote to Saks PR, which was kind enough to pass it on to the Washington Post.

Furnish called it “a cherry on top of an incredibly beautiful cake” and a “very special one-off” in a telephone interview. The whole point of doing so is because it’s “an opportunity for EJAF,” said Furnish, who is also chairman of the foundation’s board and John’s manager. But, as a bonus, “It’ll kick off our family Christmas, which is wonderful,” she said.

As the hour approached, police blocked Fifth Avenue between 50th and 49th Streets outside the Saks flagship store. A sea of ​​tourists, many in town for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, rushed into the traffic void, jostling for the best view, with no idea that John was coming, and with a stream of honking buses, cabs and pedicabs stand behind them.

At exactly 7.00pm, a crew rushed to bring a piano to the sidewalk and two minutes later John made his grand entrance, riding in a golf cart emblazoned with big bright stars, wearing a green jacket with red pants, waving and blowing kisses. He thanked Saks, asked David and the boys to join him on stage for a countdown, and then launched into an earnest rendition of “Your Song.”

And only “Your song”.

“It’s a song because we can’t close Fifth Avenue for a long time or we’re going to have a lot of angry New Yorkers,” Furnish said with a laugh. “Your Song” was John’s choice because it was his first hit in America (and two minutes shorter than “Tiny Dancer”).

John barely had time to absorb the applause before running (as best he could while recovering from hip surgery) to join his family in the stands. Saks’ front erupted with the light show, which was designed to look like a tree and showcased a medley of his own songs, including his disco hit, “Cold Heart (Pnau Remix)” featuring Dua Lipa. Then the windows came to life, including one that looked like a Lite Brite and another, in homage to John, that had rockets going up and down on the pistons.

There were fireworks! And then it was over. John crossed the street, posed for some photos and entered the shop. The whole thing lasted 15 minutes and ended with a policeman yelling at photographers and distressed guests already get off the road so a city bus could pass.

Elton John’s North American concerts can be done, but he still has plenty of shows ahead of him. His farewell tour – two years late, following delays from covid and his 2021 hip surgery – pauses for a month before resuming in January for a series of dates in Australia and New Zealand, then to the UK and Europe, before finally finally hanging up his glittering captain’s hat in Stockholm on July 3rd.

“I’ve done this video a couple of times,” Miley Cyrus joked in a video tribute to John That played during the farewell in Los Angeles. Furnish knows people are skeptical, so he wants to be totally clear. “Absolutely, he’s never touring again,” he said. “Those days are over and he has drawn the curtain on that. He’s done.

John will be 76 when this tour ends, and as much as he loves his fans and performing live, Furnish said: “He finds the journey really difficult and he finds being away from his family incredibly difficult. And, you know, our kids will be 10 and 12 and they’re getting to the age where we feel like they need us more than ever.

The pair have been thinking a lot more about what it means for them to be together and publicly present themselves as a loving unit, in recent days, Furnish said. John didn’t address it from the stage, but his last Dodgers show was the night after the Colorado Springs Club Q shooting, when a gunman killed six people at a gay bar, the latest attack on the LGBTQ community. “It was deeply, deeply depressing and deeply distressing,” Furnish said.

“You know, on the one hand, Elton can bring her husband and her two kids on stage with an incredibly warm response from everyone in the audience,” Furnish continued. “And it went live streaming all over the world. And in other parts of the world it would be seen as promoting homosexuality and homosexuality is a way of life rather than something completely natural and normal for people.”

The shooting in Colorado Springs, he said, made them both more committed to the mission of the AIDS Foundation’s Rocket Fund, which is to eliminate the stigma of AIDS that leads to people who “are afraid to take an AIDS test, afraid to take their meds, afraid to discuss or disclose their status openly for fear of recriminations based on their sexuality,” Furnish said. And that’s why she leaves the door open for John to perform at charity events in the future.

Over the weekend in Los Angeles, John revisited his famous 1975 shows when he was arguably the biggest pop star in the world. She was also a drug addict and not openly gay, but came out as bisexual. In 1984 he married a woman, Renate Blauel, divorcing her four years later. The first few shows “were difficult for me because I wasn’t feeling very well, mentally and physically,” John said in a video that aired before the show.

He has now been sober for 32 years. He has been working with Furnish for 29 years. When asked what he would miss about touring as part of the Disney special, he said, “Nothing. I’ve been doing it since I was 17 in the back of a van with my first band.”

He’s excited for a new chapter, Furnish said. “Could you do the occasional one-off? Could you do something like a residency in a theater? Maybe yes maybe no. He’s not completely closing the door to the exhibit. Furnish mentioned Kate Bush’s 2014 22-performance series in a London theater as a potential project and said John was eager to dig into her catalog and play lesser-known songs.

But the door is closed on one type of performance. “He’s not doing a residency in Vegas. That’s out of the question,” Furnish said. In the meantime, maybe he’ll hang out with her kids and ride around in glittering golf carts in front of the Christmas lights for a while.

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