Tom Petty Helped Me Appreciate Elton John’s Last Tour

It is easy to take the little things for granted. Even ones we enjoy daily. Great songs or the right cup of coffee become ordinary when they are always around. Music is important to me. Elton John is one of those musicians. Tom Petty was another. When Petty died a year ago, I learned to treasure artistry. That lesson came full circle on Elton John’s Farewell Yellowbrick Road Tour.

When Elton John played Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center three weeks ago, he was on the initial leg of his last tour. The show was the stuff of instant legend. He played with incredible enthusiasm and energy. The crowd volume, especially when he basked in the encore, was among the loudest of any show I have attended.

I am lucky to have witnessed many candidates for the Mount Rushmore of rock ‘n roll. The Who were my first concert. Paul McCartney, Smokey Robinson, Roger Waters, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and U2 were all amazing too.

Elton John was as memorable as any of them. He is the only one who I was a bigger fan of when I left the arena than when I entered. To clarify, I am not an Elton John superfan. I only know his greatest hits. Not the deep cuts. I do have a connection with him that runs longer than most artists.

Outside of The Beatles, he was probably the first rock music I listened to. I have an aunt whose love for Elton John has practically made him family.

I also saw The Lion King in theaters when I was eight. The movie introduced Elton John to the now-thirtysomething generation. Kids who were young enough to be Disney’s target audience in 1994 are now older than Elton John was when he first gained fame as a musician.

Since that concert on September 12, Elton John has announced two 2019 dates at the Wells Fargo Center. Although I realize that even they may not be his last gigs in Philadelphia, I am thankful that I was able to see Elton John while I was aware that this had a real chance to be my final one.

The Farewell Yellowbrick Road Tour is not supposed to be over until 2021, but I learned a year ago how important it is to see an icon while you can.

Elton John at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA 9/12/18
Elton John at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA 9/12/18

Regular readers are familiar with my love of Tom Petty’s music (I have certainly blogged about him enough times).  I saw the Heartbreakers three times in 2017. 15 months ago, I never thought that the closing notes of “American Girl” would be the last ones.

His death a week after their 40th Anniversary Tour was an unpoetic way for a brilliant wordsmith to leave us. I wish I had one more show where I knew it was my final gig. One time to truly enjoy the end and say “thank you.”

I am so glad that I had that opportunity with Elton John.

When he left the stage at the Wells Fargo Center, the crowd went nuts. It was an appreciation of his two-and-a-half hour set. It was also an acknowledgement of his career. A time to express gratitude for music that has brought joy for much of our lives.

Warren Zevon published a touching piece for Rolling Stone today that detailed Tom Petty’s relationship with coffee. In the article, he noted the lengths that Petty went to replicate the feeling of drinking coffee at a diner in his native Gainesville, Florida in his California home every day.

Zevon’s article serves as an important reinforcement for what Petty’s death has taught me. Sensory things like music and coffee are important in the totality of our life’s memories. You never know when or for whatever reason that they are going to end.

If there is an artist who you have been dying to see for years, go see them. Experience the joy of their art. If you still get a thrill after six shows, go to the seventh. If you savor the taste of certain coffee, sit down with a hot cup every day. Enjoy what you love while you can.


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