Review: Elton John's 'Goodbye' to Fargo leaves Dome crowd cheering for more
The singer's fourth Fargodome show was his best, Forum reporter John Lamb says.
FARGO — Saturday night was Elton John’s fourth and last show in the Fargodome. He saved the best for last.
The pianist and singer had the full-house crowd on its feet singing along with hits for over two hours on March 19, playing tunes that spanned 50 years.
“Thanks for being so patient. We finally got here,” he told the crowd, referring to his "Farewell Yellow Brick Road" tour being postponed two years due to the ongoing pandemic.
The wait was worth it. John was animated, energized and visibly happy and moved to be playing to live audiences again.
He kicked off the night with a raucous take on 1974’s “Bennie and the Jets.” The singer’s voice has understandably changed since the song first came out, but John would show throughout the night that even though he couldn’t hit the high notes, he still had a clear and powerful voice for belting out.
He talked fondly of coming to America for the first time in 1970, saying the music he was inspired by was often American music. That showed in tunes like “Philadelphia Freedom,” a tribute to Philly soul, and “Take Me to the Pilot.”
As an introduction to 1970s gospel-influenced “Border Song,” he talked about how Aretha Franklin’s cover of the tune helped himself and lyricist Bernie Taupin get a foothold in the recording industry. As the song played, a video behind showed images of contemporary people with icons from John’s lifetime, from Nelson Mandela to Princess Diana and Ryan White, a teenager in the 1980s who contracted HIV/AIDS through blood treatment, leading him to be an outcast in his Indiana hometown and a friend of the singer’s.
The whole show was kind of a walk down memory lane with the singer. Important people and events throughout John’s life played a big role in the show with the big screen behind him outlined with relief images like “The Lion King” logo, one of a few references to the hit movie to which he scored the soundtrack. Oddly, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Circle of Life” were not in the setlist.
It’s hard to knock John for leaving out a hit or two due to time — still, a surprise that “Daniel” didn’t make the cut — and the fact that he threw in the 1973 non-single “Have Mercy on the Criminal” was a sign that he was having fun and wanting to showcase his band, like guitarist David Johnstone. John’s bandleader since the mid-'70s, the guitarist offered a counterpoint and added an edge to some songs, like the 1983 pop ditty “Sad Songs (Say So Much).”
Half of the six-piece band has been with John since the 1970s and even on the rare stumble, like a miscommunication to kick off “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” the glances between the singer, the guitarist and drummer Nigel Olsson, who’s been keeping the beat for John since 1970, showed how close they are and how much fun they still have.
Still, it was longtime percussionist Ray Cooper who threatened to steal the show. Even from the back of the stage he caught the crowd’s attention, playing tambourine like some kind of snake charmer.
While he was willing to share the spotlight, it understandably kept coming back to John. He happily played to the crowd, pointing to members, talking and licking his lips during and between songs.
While he’s well past his outrageous costumes from the 1970s, he still knows how to dress for the stage, first coming on in a bedazzled tuxedo, red-gemmed glasses with rose lenses and even sparkly sneakers. Next was a dinner jacket — bedazzled, again — and blue glasses. For the encore he played it subtle in a bathrobe — not bedazzled, but likely silk.
He sat on the piano stool and sang along with a recording of his 2021 hit, “Cold Heart,” a remix of old John songs featuring Dua Lipa.
He closed the night — his 10th and final show in the Dakotas — with a nostalgic “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and afterward stepped out of the bathrobe to reveal a satiny track suit underneath, like the one in the tour promo material, and rode a lift into the screen as if he were floating away.
Leaving the crowd wanting more, but overjoyed with what they got, Elton John’s was a graceful and memorable goodbye.