For those either feeling the crunch or not wanting to line the purse of a powerhouse of pop, a live recording is the best way to experience latter-stage Elton John. For those with deep pockets, grubby hands or loving relatives, a quick tip of £78 will bag cheap seats to a London gig of The Pinball Wizard. His piano will turn into a Roomba and he will dart across the stage as he belches out a setlist so long it would kill off even the spryest and spirited of artists. Why take a trip? Thanks to movie magic, those wanting to see how well John sounds after that particularly feral and depressing lockdown live show, can do so from the comfort of their own home with Elton John: Farewell from Dodger Stadium.
Big enough to fill some Elton-mad fans and bigger still when it comes to bleeding through the speaker system of living rooms across the globe, this blowout farewell proves rather nice. It is always respectable when an artist, be it a musician or moviemaker, calls time on their own career. There is a sign of completion, an understanding that the buck stops here and has to for this reason or that. Health, emptiness, the pinnacle reached or barely scraped, whatever it is, John has called time. This Disney+ feature had every chance of being completely horrid but somehow, somewhere, it all goes right. Through the Wonkavision-like colours and shadowy figure who appears on stage comes a decent and tremendously lengthy experience.
John is a man who understands the limitations of his latter-years vocal range. He is no spring chicken but it is admirable how he accepts that and the change it makes to his finest songs. Octaves out of reach, pacing that younger lungs could handle. Legacy and tribute so closely tie within one another but John firmly displays his presence as a quality musician that can still hold his own with a few necessary changes to the pace, intonation or scope of a track. Bennie and the Jets is an obvious piece of conclusive evidence of that. But it feels all-encompassing of a career well-maintained by quality hits and singles. Kiki Dee and Dua Lipa all appear, bookending the prime time and legacy momentum John has as an incredibly powerful name of pop. Key to whatever this means for John though is that he rattles through much of his career in one go. It is a well-balanced set that features the usual suspects.
That is his right and rite. “Let’s get on with it,” he says before busting out I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues. Elton John: Farewell from Dodger Stadium feels like both. Respectable and inevitable. He makes the slow march toward retirement, the sands of time sprinkled throughout this opportunity to give his fans one last go feel genuine and exciting. Flashes of the crowd, which features Taron Egerton, are more than enough to showcase the joy on display. But the quality performance is still enough to showcase John still has something spectacular in him. He is a walking benchmark of quality for legacy acts. The so-called titans of yesteryear can still conduct themselves with the best of them. Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger have struck through and so too has John. But he has taken the time to play the sell-out arenas, to hit the Vegas residencies and to work with grassroots quality in Yard Act and Dua Lipa. He is the everyman, and this live set is a miserable realisation that his talent is to be tucked away.