Don’t let the funds go down on me: why Elton John is doing yet another farewell tour

Don’t let the funds go down on me: why Elton John is doing yet another farewell tour

July 21, 2022

Elton John — sorry, Sir Elton John — has announced another run of farewell shows in Australia early next year, having already said goodbye to Australia, one of his biggest markets, just before the COVID pandemic. Confused? I can’t blame you.

Perhaps he just enjoys saying goodbye (yellow brick road). Regardless of motivation, the farewell tour caper has proved to be incredibly lucrative over the years for any number of artists. After all, if you’re considering hanging up the microphone, you’ll need as many dollars in your rock ‘n’ roll super fund as you can manage.

Elton John during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour in Sydney in December 2019..

But why, you might ask, do acts insist on using the words last, final and farewell when plugging late-career tours? The obvious answer is that it’s a guaranteed seat filler; there’ll always be rusted-on fans who want one more go-round with their star of choice.

The first of several legs of John’s farewell tour grossed a handy $US125 million ($181 million), so clearly as a marketing move, it’s flawless. The problem, however, is that your words may come back to bite you when you discover, as perhaps Sir Elton did, that “spending more time with my family” is nowhere near as much fun as life on the road.

Don’t let the funds go down on me? That’s kind of catchy.

John is hardly the first artist to have trouble saying goodbye. Dame Nellie Melba set the standard, devoting about four years to her farewell tour during the 1920s, which led to the term “doing a Melba” becoming part of the local vernacular.

In later times, former King of Pop John Farnham has taken up where the grand dame of song left off. But even the much-loved Farnesy copped some flak from fans who repeatedly forked out their hard-earned for what they believed were his last shows, only to discover soon after that he was doing it all over again. The key lesson? Never name an album, or the subsequent concert tour, The Last Time, as Farnham did in 2002. He’s played upwards of 250 shows since then. (To his credit, he’s also played a lot of fundraisers, most recently 2020’s Fire Fight Australia ANZ Stadium bash.)

Then there’s Midnight Oil, who are currently completing their latest farewell, billed as The Final Tour. We shall see.

Perhaps there is a way to tackle this dilemma. Neil Finn and Crowded House have always been a bit savvier than your average pop band. When they returned to the Sydney Opera House in 2016, 20 years after their, ahem, farewell show to about 200,000 fans at the same site, they billed it as an “encore performance”. No mention of the words comeback, swansong or backflip. Smart move.

Jeff Apter’s latest book is a biography of Keith Urban.

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