John’s very last performance in the United States, a curious and small epilogue to his big adieu, was on Tuesday night when he briefly stopped traffic on one of America’s busiest commercial stretches to open the Christmas shopping season as the surprise guest artist in Saks Fifth Avenue’s annual unveiling. of the holiday windows and light show. It’s not the typical way you’d expect a 75-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer to follow the end of a 271-show streak he began planning seven years ago.
But Saks donates $1 million to the Elton John AIDS Foundation. And he and his family — his husband, David Furnish, and their two sons Zachary, 11, and Elijah, 9 — were already heading east to get back to London. So why not?
“I can’t think of a more magical way to end my Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour in the US than to be here on Fifth Avenue with my family, enjoying both my music and my work with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, recorded in New York’s most iconic holiday storefronts and light shows,” John said in a perfectly articulated quote to Saks PR, who kindly passed it on to The Washington Post.
Furnish called it “icing on top of an incredibly beautiful cake” and “a very special one-off” in a phone interview. The whole point of doing it is because it’s “an opportunity for EJAF,” said Furnish, who is also the foundation’s chairman of the board and John’s manager. But as a bonus, “It’s going to kick off our family Christmas, which is great,” he 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, stormed into the dead of traffic, jostling for a better view, with no idea John was on his way, with a stream of honking buses and cabs and pedicabs following behind them . up behind them.
At exactly 7 p.m., a team rushed to wheel a piano onto the curb and two minutes later, John made his grand entrance, riding a golf cart adorned with large glowing stars, wearing a green jacket with red sweatpants, waving and kissing blow. He thanked Saks, had David and the kids join him on stage for the countdown, and then launched into a heartfelt rendition of “Your Song.”
And only ‘Your song’.
“It’s one song because we can’t close Fifth Avenue for long or we’re going to get 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 racing (as best he could while recovering from hip surgery) to join his family in the stands. Saks’ front exploded with the light show, which was designed to look like a tree and flashed to a medley of his songs, including his dance club 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 tribute to John, with rockets that went up and down on pistons.
There were fireworks! And then it was over. John crossed the street, posed for some photos and entered the store. The whole thing lasted 15 minutes and ended with police officers yelling at straggling photographers and guests get out of the street so that a city bus could get through.
Elton John’s North American concerts may be over, but he still has plenty of shows ahead of him. His farewell tour – two years behind schedule, following delays due to covid and his hip surgery in 2021 – will stop for a month before resuming in January for a series of dates in Australia and New Zealand, then the UK and Europe, before finally on July 3, he finally hangs up his sparkling captain’s hat in Stockholm.
“I’ve made this video a few times,” Miley Cyrus joked in a video tribute to John That played during the Los Angeles farewell. Furnish knows people are skeptical, so he wants to be perfectly clear. “Absolutely, he will never tour again,” he said. “Those days are over and he has drawn the curtain on them. He’s ready.”
John will be 76 when this tour ends and, as much as he loves his fans and live performances, Furnish said: “He finds traveling very difficult and he finds it incredibly difficult to be away from his family. And, you know, our boys are turning 10 and 12 and they’re getting to the age where we think they need us more than ever.
They’ve been thinking a lot more in recent days about what it means to them to be together and present themselves publicly as a loving unity, Furnish said. John didn’t tell from the stage, but his last Dodgers show was the night after the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs, when a gunman killed six people at a gay bar, the latest assault on the LGBTQ community. “It was deeply, deeply depressing and deeply disturbing,” said Furnish.
“You know, on the one hand, Elton can bring his man and his two sons on stage to an incredibly warm response from everyone in the audience,” Furnish continued. “And it went out on a live stream around the world. And in other parts of the world that would be considered promoting homosexuality and homosexuality is a lifestyle rather than a completely natural and normal thing for people.”
The Colorado Springs shooting, he said, has 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 pick up their medication, afraid to openly discuss or disclose their status for fear of accusations based on their sexuality,” according to Furnish. And that’s why he leaves the door open for John to hold charity events in the future.
Over the weekend in Los Angeles, John revisited his landmark shows from 1975, when he was arguably the biggest pop star in the world. He was also an addict, and not openly gay, but had come out as bisexual. In 1984, he married a woman, Renate Blauel, and divorced her four years later. The first shows “were hard for me because I wasn’t in great shape mentally and physically,” said John in a video played before the show.
Now he is 32 years sober. He has been 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 he do a one-off every once in a while? Could he do something like a theater residency? Maybe maybe not. He does not close the door to full performance. Furnish cited Kate Bush’s 2014 run of 22 shows at a London theater as a possible blueprint, saying John was eager to dig into his back catalog and play lesser-known numbers.
But the door is closed for one type of performance. “He’s not doing a residency in Vegas. That’s off the table,” Furnish said. In the meantime, he might just hang out with his kids and drive around in sparkling golf carts for Christmas lights for a while.