June 16, 2014


Elton John Rolls Out Greatest Hits (And Ben Folds!) For Bonnaroo 2014 Finale

Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

At a music festival where people are walking around with stuffed animals impaled on PVC pipes to help them stand out in the crowd and hip-hop and EDM shows rage into the wee hours of the morning, Elton John and his scarlet piano were either going to feel totally at home as Bonnaroo's big closing set or completely out of place. Thankfully, 90,000 people jumping around like maniacs and screaming the "LA LA LA LA LAAAAA"-es of "Crocodile Rock" made for the perfect, unifying sing-along to close Bonnaroo's thirteenth year, and Sir Elton was able to chalk his official American festival debut up as a perfect, sequined smash.

There's only one complaint to be filed for Elton following this epic set, and that complaint is the following: ONE LION KING SONG WOULD'VE BEEN AWESOME, SIR. Beyond a severe lack of "Can You Feel The Love Tonight," there's nothing remotely negative to be said about the career-spanning performance Elton served up to Bonnaroo's final night on a sequined platter. The selections were perfect, the banter charming and the execution superb. Starting with "Love Lies Bleeding," Elton and crew didn't want for the hits to show themselves, with "Bennie and the Jets," "Candle in the Wind," "Levon" and "Tiny Dancer" coaxing a steady roar of approval from the crowd for the first half an hour.

"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" was met with a goofy cartoon detailing Elton's career in full, with the neon lights of various marquees, his family and his penchant for statement glasses all revolving through the title track of his most revered record. After each number, Elton, clad in a bejeweled tux with "ROCKET MAN" emblazoned across the back, would head straight for the audience, his arms as outstretched as his smile. Of all the shows in all the theaters over the years, this one was special for Elton—this was his first official festival performance in the United States—and he treated Bonnaroo like an occasion he needed to rise for. The adoration the crowd threw his way was happily received and returned, and by the time the encore came around—"Your Song" followed by "Crocodile Rock"—the pop royal wasn't so much holding court as he was throwing a killer party in it.

As it was Bonnaroo and all, a big name guest was kind of a given, and Ben Folds joined Elton for "Grey Seal." (When he introduced the forthcoming guest as a fantastic piano player and an American, wide eyes scanned the wings for Billy Joel. We weren't the only ones, we're sure of it.) Dueling ivories, tried-and-true favorites and the power of thousands of people getting misty-eyed over the pleading verses of "Your Song" made Elton's Bonnaroo set a finale to remember, but it seems like the festival left an equally indelable mark on Rocketman, too.