Elton John’s yellow brick road is winding to an end: The veteran British rock star on Wednesday announced his retirement from touring — but not until after he completes what’s slated to be a 300-date global farewell trek that will keep him in front of concert audiences for three more years.
“My life has changed, my priorities have changed,” said John, 71, in a press conference at Gotham Hall in New York City, where he sang “Tiny Dancer” and “I’m Still Standing” before taking a seat next to CNN’s Anderson Cooper to explain his decision. “My priorities are my children and my husband. I can’t do the traveling anymore, I don’t want to do the traveling anymore.”
John and his husband, David Furnish, in recent years adopted two sons who are now 5 and 7. “I don’t want to miss them and I don’t want them to miss me,” he said. “I want to be there for their school, and to take them to soccer academy.”
His Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour is scheduled to open Sept. 8 in Allentown, Penn., and continue around the globe into the year 2021. “When I end the tour, our sons will be 8 and 10. That’s an important time. They need their parents.”
In response to a question from a remote broadcast from the Troubadour in West Hollywood, where John made his initial splash in the U.S. in 1970, he said that tour might include a return performance at the venerable club — where his longtime songwriting collaborator, Bernie Taupin, addressed a couple of dozen reporters and others.
The tour itinerary released Wednesday includes 2019 Southern California stops Jan. 22 and 23 at Staples Center in Los Angeles and Jan. 29 in San Diego’s Valley View Casino Center. The confirmed dates extend only into next year so far.
John and Taupin this year are marking the 50th anniversary of the beginning of their songwriting partnership, one of the most successful and prolific in pop music history. Taupin said he and his wife, Heather, share John’s emphasis on family before career.
“Heather and I also have young children,” longtime California resident Taupin, 67, said. “I want them to see as much of this tour as they can so they can know what their father did and be proud of it.”
John wore a dazzling bejeweled tux coat and tails, with the words “Gucci Loves Elton” on the back, and said his final tour “will be the biggest, most elaborately produced tour I’ve ever done…. I don’t want to go out with a whimper, I want to go out with a bang. I’m not a whimper kind of guy.”
The press conference was preceded by a virtual-reality demonstration using film footage of John’s 1970 debut at the Troubadour and the subsequent large-scale 1975 appearances at Dodger Stadium, which cemented his status as the one of the biggest rock stars of the 1970s.
Asked whether he intended to further exploit virtual reality in retiring from touring, he said “I’m a total Luddite. I’ve never downloaded anything — not even porn…. I was actually talking about this with my son. I said, ‘When Daddy dies, promise me you won’t have a hologram of me going around the world,” he said with a laugh. “It’s like doing a duets album with someone who has died. It’s creepy…. I think it’s a bit freaky.
Then he quipped, “But who knows? Maybe they’ll get older and be broke and put be back on the [expletive] road again.”
He also said the end of touring does not signal the end of his lifelong relationship with music. “I still plan to do a couple more albums. Hopefully I will still be creative until the day I die.”