Updated: Nov 21, 2022
Three years ago Elton John began his, "Farewell Tour" I feel very grateful and honoured to have shot it twice. Both in Oakland and then again in Los Angeles in January of 2019. Then Covid hit and he had to pause this tour until now.
This weekend he is playing three nights at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, ending tomorrow night (November 20, 2022). For months now I've been planning with some friends I grew up with, to go to it together, like we did back in 1975. But sometimes the best laid plans don't come to fruition and sadly this is one of them. For various reasons, we are not going to this show. But with the power of technology we will be watching separately and together from each of our homes. Yes, this does make me a little sad but I'm grateful we all have devices in which we can at the very least stream it on Disney+ at 7.55 PST.
Forty seven years ago these friends and I were allowed by our parents to camp overnight outside the gates of Dodger Stadium and attend this show in October 1975! What our parents knew is that we were going with an "older kid" who could drive so "it'll be ok"! Hahaha...when I look back on the scenario of me and this group of friends, I think how in the world could my parents have allowed such a thing to happen! But I'm grateful they did, and doubly grateful I lived to tell the tale, and have the memories from that experience, 47 years on. What an experience that was for the young, music junkie, me.
As we had gotten to the gates so early, the night before, we were in the front. Then the gates opened the next morning. Crush and a rush!!! My most terrifying memory was when they opened those narrow pedestrian gates and we all squeezed in, ran down the hill to get into the stadium to get our spaces at the front. I was so small, I was 'carried' by the sheer pressure of the crowd flooding through the narrow opening of those gates at the top of the hill. The feeling of being carried by the crowd was frightening and temporarily losing my friends in the frenzy was terrifying to the young me. But we made it to the field alive and excited to see our favourite music man, Elton John, only feet in front of us. I remember how wonderful it was to see him for that first (of many) times. The show was amazing, as most of his shows have been in the many years since, throughout my life. I've been very fortunate to have seen him so many times, both in England where I had lived for 25 years and in the U.S.. I've seen about 150 Elton John shows in my life. Missing this one 47 years later at Dodger Stadium is VERY unlike me, but it is what it is. I'm grateful that these same friends and I will be sharing the experience together, separately, them in So Cal, me in Nor Cal, all in front of our TVs tomorrow night streaming the show live on Disney+.
In 2019, Photographing him on the beginning of this Farewell Tour was fantastic for me. I shot it both in Oakland and then a few days later at the Staples Center in LA. Both amazing shows. At the Oakland show, after shooting the first three songs, his management gave me a wonderful seat directly in front of his piano a few rows from the stage. After a few of the songs, I turned to the guys sitting next to me, as we were both very obviously EJ fans for life. After chatting, we found we were both artists, (oil painters). And after a while he admitted to me that he knows Elton, as he was Eltons' partner before David Furnish entered Eltons life. My new pal Bill and I became fast friends and to this day we still are in touch!
Elton has had many ups and downs throughout his years in the music industry. He was an addict for a few decades. And his addiction days were at the low end of his performances. However, since Elton got clean and sober in 1990, his shows have been flawless. Before his sobriety however, I have been at his show where he's fallen off his piano bench and not done so well at a few other memorable performances, but nevertheless, I have loved him just the same. I remember a couple ugly runs of shows at the Universal Amphitheater, 1979 and 1986, were in the prime of his addiction days, and looking back, the shows were less than perfect. Once at Universal, he played 11 consecutive nights. Of course I was at all eleven! A couple of those shows he had to leave the stage temporarily, due to his addiction. It was still Elton John and his stunning band, Nigel Olson, Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray and Ray Cooper. They held it together. Even when he did the run only with him and percussionist Ray Cooper. He came through it all. I respect him for his work of getting clean and sober, and since 1990 when he took that first step to recovery, he has been getting better every year. He admits that he'd be dead if he hadn't sobered up. And we are all grateful he did. He's been with us performing well, from 1990 until this, his "Farewell Tour".
As I've grown up as a huge EJ fan, yes, I can go into all the details about him and his life, but I wont. You can google stuff, like he was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in England, March 25 1947 etc. However, my personal life has taken me to live near where he was born and raised, in Pinner, Middlesex, UK. I lived nearby the hood where he was raised for many years. I'm even a Watford Football Club supporter because he is! I would attend Football matches at Watford to see Elton, not because I was a Football supporter, ("soccer" to Americans)...but I just adored him and his music for so long, I just wanted to be near him. Like any self respecting young groupie would!
When I was a kid, I used to attend EVERY show he played. Directly after his show, me and friends would speed back to his house to greet him as he walked up to his front door, post show. I even began making laminates when I was 16 and hung out backstage. I remember watching him put a Donald Duck costume on for an encore whilst hearing the the crowd out in The Forum stomping their feet for his return to the stage.
One year when I was backstage, I think when I was about 18 years old, I found myself watching the show from just behind the sound engineer to the left of the stage. I was in a group of three watching from this vantage point. The two men on either side of me were talking over me, as I was in the center of them. These two guys were none other than Lindsay Buchingham to my right and Bernie Taupin to my left! That was one of my fondest memories, ever!!! One I shall NEVER forget! I have so many of those memories of fun things that 'just happened' at EJ shows.
I even learned an important life lesson I practice to this day, daily....I learned when I was 16 at that show at The Forum. And that lesson was to always try, never give up for fear of failure. At least try because I found if I didn't at least try, than the feeling of regret for not trying at all, was way worse (for me). You dont know how well things may turn out if you dont give up. In all forms of life and living, career goals, love, and all parts of life. The Beatles had many doors shut in their face before they got a "yes". If they stopped trying for fear of failure The Beatles wouldn't exist. So every time I always pursued getting backstage, doing whatever I needed to do, as long as I wasn't hurting anyone to get to my goal. And I usually succeeded. And my goals in my teens was to be as near as possible to Elton John!... Yes, I have matured, but I still love seeing his live shows and photographing them is just the ultimate joy for me, now as an adult and a music photographer. A career perfect for me and my passion for art and music!
That lesson I learned at 16, that I would always prefer to fail rather than not to try at all, has served me well throughout my life. Always trying hard, rather than living with regret has been my choice. And because of this, so many wonderful things can and have happened! Even if it looks like failure was on the horizon. As my number one rule I have in my heart is to ALWAYS try...If I dont try, I'll never know how wonderful something could've turned out.
I try to apply that to everything I do. Thats where my tagline comes from: "Remember..."Life is short...break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile". And to this day, I never live with regret.
Shooting the two Elton John shows in 2019, before the pandemic was indeed two of the most fantastic shoots I've ever done. Kind of a full circle for me. So grateful to have had those experiences. Expecially as I found myself to be the only photographer shooting the LA show. One thing is for sure, if I had given up requesting to cover those shows simply because I was turned down in previous years, I would've never had those photos or the priceless memories of capturing the piano man through my lens, after following his music for nearly 50 years! A big thank you to the phenomenal song writing team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin for giving the world the amazing music they have given us. And for providing many of us with the soundtracks of our lives!
The photos attached are a few from the first leg of his "Farewell Tour". Shot at the Oakland Arena and Staples Center LA January 2019. The one above was shot by the fabulous photographer, Terry O'Neill at Dodger Stadium in October 1975. All copyrights CherylAltermanPhotography