It is the end of an era. Sir Elton John will perform for the last time ever in the United States as he plays his farewell performance of the “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Tour” at Dodgers Stadium in LA tonight. Fortunately, those of us who aren’t in Los Angeles and do not have tickets can still be part of the epic event because the concert will be streamed live on Disney+.
Elton John’s music is timeless and spans generations. Elton John’s first performance in the United States was more than 50 years ago at the Troubadour in Los Angeles in August of 1970. But the concert that really put Elton John on the map and marked the explosion of his career was October 25, 1975, at Dodger Stadium. It is fitting that he will end his touring career where it really all began.
I spoke with the show’s producers, Ben Winston and Gabe Turner, about being able to share the event around the world live, and capture it for posterity.
Elton John is before my time—and yet I grew up on Elton John. I can say the same thing about The Beatles, or Elvis, or other music from my parents’ generation. But what sets Elton apart is that it wasn’t just classic hits being played on repeat—Elton John was still making Top 40 hits throughout the 80s and 90s, and still is. 50 years after “Your Song” became the first Elton John song on the Top 40, the remix of Cold Heart with Dua Lipa hit #32 in 2021.
Hits like “Little Jeanie,” “Blue Eyes,” “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,” “I’m Still Standing,” and “Empty Garden”—helped define the 80s. As I told Ben and Gabe, though, it was the album “Greatest Hits” that became the anthem of my time in the Air Force as my good friend Joe Donaldson and I played it on repeat throughout our time at tech school in Denver and on our adventures across England once we deployed to RAF Upper Heyford.
“I totally agree. I think he goes across so many generations,” said Ben. “I refer to that 1975 gig, or something like that when it comes to Elton—that was six or seven years before I was even born, and yet I still know about it and love it.”
He explained, “You go to these Elton shows—and we’ve been going to a lot of them to get ready for Sunday—and the crowd is phenomenal in the difference in ages. You will see people who were there back in 1975, but you’ll also see seven and eight year old kids in the front row—singing every word to every song—and you’re like ‘This is a phenomenal reach!’ But, ultimately, his music is timeless.”
Live Streaming a Once-in-a-Lifetime Event
There is definitely something to be said for being at an event like this in person. There is an energy to a live performance and a sense of nostalgia that can only truly be experienced by the people in the stadium.
That said, those of us watching the concert live streamed on Disney+ will have the best seats in the house, and an objectively better viewing experience. We will have the benefit of multiple cameras—and the ability to see the show from different angles and zoom in or pan out as needed. Ben and Gabe told me they are using 23 cameras, plus helicopter cameras, as well as drones to ensure the live stream is as incredible as it should be.
I mentioned how it is a bucket list item for me to attend an NFL Super Bowl in person for the experience, but that I appreciate watching the game from the comfort of my own living room with the different camera angles, and replays, and zooming in.
When you’re at an event like that, you have the view you have—whether it’s the front row, or the 15th row of the upper deck. As Ben and Gabe put a production like this together, though, there’s a choreography to it. They aren’t just putting a camera on a tripod in the 5th row and providing a static view of the concert. Elton John needs to be able to just do his show and perform the way he performs, but Ben and Gabe and everyone involved in producing the live stream for Disney+ need to be intimately familiar with how the show will be performed so they can orchestrate the best camera angles.
“I think our job is to make sure that the way we cut those cameras and the choices that we make reflect the music and also change and continue to evolve as the who goes on. What we can’t do is make the show ever feel like it’s stagnating,” shared Ben. “I think you’ve got to shoot each song in a different style, and in a different way.”
“It’s a different thing being there and just being part of it,” explained Gabe. “But, I think you’re right that we have the benefit of multiple cameras and the ability to try and follow the emotion and curate a piece that does Elton justice. That’s a really good challenge for us and we’re really excited to do that.
When the Dust Settles
After the performance is over, Ben and Gabe will spend some time going back through the footage to edit. The live stream will exist as-is for a few weeks, and it will capture the moment in time, but there may be camera or angle decisions that are made in real-time that could have been better.
Ben told me, “We’re going to watch it again and we’re going to take the best of the best. There might be moments that our vision mixer, or our technical director just didn’t hear, and we’ll have time to make it absolutely perfect so it’s a moment of history rather than a live cut.”
“Elton John Live: Farewell from Dodger Stadium” will stream live tonight on Disney+ starting at 11pm Eastern / 8pm Pacific time. A pre-show, Countdown to Elton Live” will begin 30 minutes earlier and feature interviews with Elton John and his husband, as well as video snippets from friends and colleagues. If you don’t catch it live, the concert will be available on-demand on Disney+.