Elton John Bids Houston A Fond Farewell At Sold-Out Toyota Center

The Rocket Man onstage at Toyota Center
The Rocket Man onstage at Toyota Center Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Elton John
Toyota Center
December 8, 2018

"It was very difficult to choose a set list," Elton John said of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, which visited Houston's Toyota Center Saturday night. "There are so many songs I'd like to play, but then I'd be here for five or six hours."

At this, the sold-out crowd roared. After all, who wouldn't want a few extra hours of the Grammy Award-winning, platinum-selling artist? But for the Rocket Man himself, that additional time would be daunting. John is just three months into a farewell tour that won't end until 2021, so as much as Houston fans might have enjoyed a few more tunes, his two and a half hour performance will have to suffice.

At his first of two performances at Toyota Center, John performed a blend of his hits and a few deep cuts that flaunted his and his band's musical abilities.

When he first appeared onstage and sat down at his piano, John only had to play a single chord to send the crowd into a frenzy. He played it four or five more times before the rest of his band joined in and kicked off the evening with "Benny And The Jets."

Shortly afterward, he apologized to all the fans who might end up leaving disappointed - "If I've left out any of your favorites, please forgive me, OK?" - before segueing into "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues." John then reminded the crowd that his self-titled sophomore album established him in the United States before performing its first single, "Border Song," which was also covered by Miss Aretha Franklin in 1972.

Later, John spoke of his work raising money for HIV and AIDs research following 16 years of alcohol and drug abuse. It was in 1990, he told the crowd, that he got clean and began feeling terribly guilty for not getting more involved during the '80s. Onscreen, John was seen addressing Congress, visiting people in hospitals and embracing people of all ages who had been affected by the disease.

John dedicated "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" to Houston socialite Lynn Wyatt. "She's my little yellow rose of Texas," he said with a smile. Right afterward, he launched into "The Bitch Is Back," during which a group of trans women were shown onscreen pushing each other into a pool.

"Tiny Dancer," "Rocket Man," "Candle In The Wind" and "Crocodile Rock" all made the cut as well. But perhaps the most impressive performance of the night was "Indian Sunset," a lesser-known track that saw John take a backseat to percussionist Ray Cooper, whose thunderous drumming brought the crowd to its feet.

"I'm not disappearing. I'll still be making music; I just won't be touring anymore," John said near the end of the show. "My two little boys back home, they need their daddy. And I need them."

For his encore, John reemerged from backstage in a green robe, looking quite ready to tuck in. He performed two more cuts — "Your Song" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" — before finally retiring for the evening. And as he rose from his piano, with cheers ringing out through the venue, John dropped his robe to reveal a track suit with his name embroidered in rhinestones on the back.

He gave the crowd a final wave and disappeared backstage. Onscreen, he was seen walking down the Yellow Brick Road, disappearing into the light at a curve in the distance. For a 71-year-old's retirement party, it sure wasn't dull.

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
Candle In The Wind
Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding
Burn Down The Mission
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)
Your Song
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
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Matt is a regular contributor to the Houston Press’ music section. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in print journalism and global business. Matt first began writing for the Press as an intern, having accidentally sent his resume to the publication's music editor instead of the news chief. After half a decade of attending concerts and interviewing musicians, he has credited this fortuitous mistake to divine intervention.
Contact: Matthew Keever