UPDATE: Elton John added one more South Florida date on his Farewell Yellow Brick Tour after this story ran in January. He returns to South Florida to Sunrise’s BB&T Center on March 16, 2019.
Elton John’s announcement that he will retire from touring after a three-year Farewell Yellow Brick Road world tour has a Miami connection.
After the tour — which gives South Florida audiences a last chance to see John live on March 16, 2019 at Sunrise’s BB&T Center — ends in 2021, the superstar says he wants to spend more time with his two children, Zachary, 7, and Elijah, 5.
But where does that leave his “music shadow” from Miami Beach?
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Adam Chester, Class of ’81 Miami Beach High grad, has been John’s rehearsal pianist for years. He’s the guy that sits in for the star with the Elton John Band to get them stage ready for shows, doing soundchecks, practicing with the band.
In 2007, for instance, one of Chester’s bigger gigs was when he conducted the 68-member Brooklyn Youth Chorus for John’s 60th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden.
Is Chester out of a job?
Not at all.
“I’m part of the tour and it may go on for about two to three years, and who knows what will come of it?” Chester, 55, said Wednesday afternoon as he hopped a flight to New York. This week, the former Beach High Rock Ensemble member is as busy as his famous boss.
Chester’s conducting string quartets for Coldplay’s Chris Martin and a choir for Lady Gaga, and he’s rehearsing John’s band at Madison Square Garden for the singer’s Grammy duet performance with Miley Cyrus on Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. CBS telecast.
In addition, Chester played piano with the Elton John Band for Tuesday night’s “Elton John: I’m Still Standing — A Grammy Salute” event that will was recorded at the Garden and airs on CBS.
For that tribute in New York, he’s playing piano for Elton John. John will be in the audience as he’s feted by stars like Sam Smith, John Legend, Little Big Town and Kesha.
“We’ve been rehearsing that for two weeks and I’m playing piano in the band because Elton will be in the audience. So that’s a first. My head is spinning, but it’s all good, though,” Chester said.
“This is the kid from Miami Beach High with all the Elton John posters all over his wall,” Chester added. “This is my dream come true.”
But is this really going to be it for John and the road? The songwriter, whose first hit single, “Your Song,” went Top 10 in 1970, will be 71 in March. John has two sons with husband David Furnish, and he says he’s been performing since he was 17. Even for someone dubbed Captain Fantastic, there has to be an end date.
“Performing live fuels me and I’m ecstatic and humbled to continue to play to audiences across the globe,” said John’s statement. “I plan to bring the passion and creativity that has entertained my fans for decades to my final tour. After the tour finishes, I’m very much looking forward to closing off that chapter of my life by saying farewell to life on the road. I need to dedicate more time to raising my children.”
But is this really going to be it for John and the road? After all, we heard the same from Cher, Barry Manilow, the Who and the Eagles — and even from John in 1976 when, at 28, he told Playboy he couldn’t imagine himself touring and playing “Crocodile Rock” at 40.
“When I’m 40, I don’t want to be charging around the countryside doing concerts, I’d rather retire gracefully — get out when people least expect it — and live semi-detached in England, become part of something else,” he told the interviewer.
How about at 40, 50, 60 and even 70? In December, John played “Crocodile Rock” at a concert in Germany, along with his other hits, including “Philadelphia Freedom” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”
John has also featured “Crocodile Rock” in his Million Dollar Piano Vegas residency show at Caesar’s Palace since 2011. The Vegas engagement will end in May after more than 200 shows.
“We don’t know if anyone considers this the end, really,” said Chester, who now lives in Los Angeles. “This is a definition for moving forward. Elton wants to spend more time with his kids, but I don’t think he could ever stop. This is his passion. He’s a performer. The best.”
John’s statement comes on the heels of his former label mate Neil Diamond’s own announcement. Diamond, 77, said he was retiring from the concert stage, effective immediately, owing to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
When John made his groundbreaking U.S. concert debut at The Troubadour in Los Angeles in August 1970, Diamond introduced him on stage. “Folks, I’ve never done this before, so please be kind to me,” Diamond said. “I’m like the rest of you; I’m here because of having listened to Elton John’s album. So I’m going to take my seat with you now and enjoy the show.”