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Review: Elton John adds lustre to pop legacy with rollicking Aberdeen farewell

He had some choice words for security staff, but the global superstar rolled back the years to give P&J Live a performance to remember.

Elton John Aberdeen review
Elton John rocks out at a recent London show. He played Aberdeen's P&J Live on Tuesday night. Image: Ben Gibson/HST Global Limited

There was a moment at Elton John’s farewell stop at Aberdeen’s P&J Live last night when the superstar’s legacy was put firmly into focus.

He was still a handful of songs from the end of the night, belting through rock classic I’m Still Standing with the energy of a man half his 76 years.

Behind him on a giant screen spun a medley of images from Elton’s numerous TV and film appearances.

The breadth was enormous. Everything from showing up on the Simpsons and South Park to his memorable 1978 guest spot on The Muppets.

There, too, was Elton in the sparkly baseball jersey he wore for his Dodger Stadium concerts in 1975, a look so iconic that Harry Styles has copied it.

Elton John performing at P&J Live in Aberdeen
The crowd worship at the altar of Elton. Image: Johanna Weilandt

There were numerous clips of the star playing at Live Aid, Comic Relief and other charity bashes – Top of the Pops appearances in the ‘80s; possibly a Wogan.

The video for Lion King smash hit Circle of Life popped up reminding everyone of Elton’s pivotal role in the success of that movie.

And there he was in James Cordon’s Carpool Karaoke car, charming yet another generation of TV viewers.

What the images drove home – alongside Elton’s thumping piano – was just how much of an impact he has had on global culture.

There are many who wouldn’t describe themselves as Elton John fans. But it is impossible not to know who he is, and the words to at least some of his songs.

Elton John says farewell to Aberdeen

All of which made last night’s performance especially poignant.

It was gig number 318 on a 333-gig farewell tour for the great man (he returns to P&J Live for the 319th on Thursday). For the thousands packed into the arena last night it was a last chance to see him.

Judging from the amount of sequins and feather boas in the audience it was clear Elton’s legacy looms large in Aberdeen, which he last visited in 2015.

Stalls in the lobby were selling light-up Elton specs for £15 each and the arena throbbed to their flashing as the band took the stage.

People had come from far and wide to worship at the altar of Elton, braving the northern climes and P&J Live’s notoriously slow food and drink queues.

Charley and Austin Ward, the latter of which was dressed in a replica LA Dodger’s shirt with Elton 1 on the back, had travelled up from Brighton partly because, they said, it was cheaper than going to the London shows.

Austin and Charley Ward. Austin is wearing a replica LA Dodger’s shirt with Elton 1 on the back and they are both wearing Elton John sunglasses
Austin and Charley Ward ahead of Elton John’s Aberdeen concert. Image: Andy Morton/DC Thomson

The Hagentogler sisters Kristen and Emily, and friend Allison Adelmann, had come even further.

They flew in from Florida even though they’d already seen the same show in Washington DC last September.

Their review of that performance? “Amazing!”

Kristen Hagentogler, Allison Adelmann and Emily Hagentogler holding plastic cups from P&J live, one of them has a bag of merch with Elton John's name printed on it
From left to right, Kristen Hagentogler, Allison Adelmann and Emily Hagentogler at P&J Live. Image: Andy Morton/DC Thomson

Why did Elton John shout at security in Aberdeen?

I failed to catch the Hagentoglers in the usual P&J Live crush to leave, so I don’t have their verdict on the Aberdeen leg.

But they can’t have been disappointed.

Elton blazed through a two-and-a half-hour set, a length made all the more remarkable by the fact the septuagenarian only had one toilet break.

In fact, there was much rolling back of the years.

Elton’s voice, which has come in for some stick recently, may have started the evening diminished. Opening number Bennie and the Jets was a little… strangulated?

But Elton quickly warmed up and by the second half was blasting out Candle in Wind and Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me like he was in his pomp.

His audience interaction was also on point.

The old charmer mixed his setlist with reminisces on the old days. Recollections of friends such as Aretha Franklin were just a further reminder of his central role in modern music.

Thirteen-year-old Elton John superfan Fay Steen, left, heads in to see her hero at P&J Live with Zoe Steen. Image: Andy Morton/DC Thomson

There was an odd moment when he seemed to swear at security staff who were – quite reasonably, you could argue – trying to stop people breaching a small barrier at the front of the stage.

You could spin this incident in a couple of ways – lovable Elton allowing his fans to get closer to their idol, or a billionaire telling minimum wage workers they are “f***ing morons”.

Still, it wasn’t going to dent the goodwill in the room and Elton was quickly into the next song – the appropriate Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.

Band achieves lift-off for adoring P&J Live audience

Ever the showman, Elton saved the best for last.

The whole night was a tribute to his long career, so it was fitting that his band was made up of people he’d played with for – in some cases – more than 50 years.

Some of the band looked even older than Elton – I worried drummer Nigel Olsson might not last the evening never mind the rest of the tour – but their energy was astounding.

In essence, this was Elton kicking back and having fun with some old friends. We were lucky to be witnesses.

What’s more, for the final numbers, the band achieved the kind of lift-off envisaged in the joyous scene in recent Elton John biopic Rocket Man when the singer and his audience levitate through the power of his music.

It helps, of course, that Elton has some bangers up his sleeve.

Crocodile Rock turned P&J Live into one giant karaoke. Your Song did the same, only more so.

And then with one last Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton took his leave, exiting on a lift that deposited him smiling and waving through a hatch at the back of the stage.

Will he be back? Well, yes. He’s got that second night at the P&J this Thursday.

But after that, he may really be gone forever from Aberdeen. No more live performances.

Elton has left the building.

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