Elton John makes slick Sunderland debut with Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour

After six decades in music and more than 300million record sales, Sir Elton John has finally followed the yellow brick road to Sunderland.

It was the Rocket Man’s debut at the home of the Black Cats and he hit the back of the net with a big crowd pleaser of a setlist, tracks which have made him one of the most successful artists of all time.

Ever the entertainer, he arrived on stage resplendent in a bespoke suit with rhinestone-studded lapels with opening number Bennie and the Jets to perform to a sold out crowd of just under 38,000.

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It’s almost half of the record-breaking 60,000 who attended each night of the Ed Sheeran gigs earlier in the month. But this was the first all-seated gig at the stadium, with seats on the pitch - granted Elton’s fans are a little older than the average pop crowd. It didn’t stop them shaking their feather boas and shimmying in their sequin Dodgers baseball kits for all its worth, however.

Elton John in Sunderland. Ben Gibson / HST Global Limited t/a Rocket Entertainment.

Most have lived through the various chapters of the bespectacled showman’s career, from the raucous glam rock of the ‘70s through to the slow sway of the ballads, and the show was a real trip down memory lane – two hours and 30 minutes of hit after hit after hit.

It’s his biggest production to date with a huge stage that dominated one stand, but rather than the fireworks and fancy pyrotechnics of other performers, Sir Elton lets the music do the talking with slick performances of classic singalongs such as I Guess Why They Call It The Blues, Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Candle in the Wind, Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, I'm Still Standing, Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting, Your Song and more.

The main man mostly remains at the piano, but we were treated to three jacket and glass changes, from a Liberace-style white number to a technicolour coat and, finally, a very snazzy embroidered smoking jacket.

This was a masterclass in musicianship from a veteran who really knows his craft and he was joined on stage by some of the best musicians on the circuit, including long term drummer Nigel Olsson who was raised in Thornhill and honed his musical skills in Sunderland’s pubs and clubs.

Elton John making his Sunderland debut. Ben Gibson / HST Global Limited t/a Rocket Entertainment.

"This is my 231st show on this tour,” said Elton. “And my last ever show in the North East. The road is coming to an end because I want to spend time with my family. But I will never forget the love and kindness shown to me in this part of the world. Goodbye.”

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With this to be his farewell tour – he means it this time – it’s likely to be Sir Elton’s one and only time performing in Sunderland but what a swan song it was.

His show capped off this summer’s gigs which has seen more than 150,000 people sing their hearts out at the Stadium of Light, ploughing millions into the economy and helping to create a real buzz in the city in the window between football seasons.

No matter what your musical tastes, there’s no denying the kudos of having global stars touch down on Wearside – more of the same next summer, please.

Elton John at the Stadium of Light
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It was the first all seated gig at the Stadium of Light
Ben Gibson / HST Global Limited t/a Rocket Entertainment.
It was Elton's first time playing Sunderland
Close to 38,000 attended