Elton John performs "Bennie and the Jets" at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Friday, December 14, 2018 during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News)

Elton John performs "Bennie and the Jets" at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Friday, December 14, 2018 during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News)

Ashley Landis/Staff Photographer

Even for an icon as majestically undeniable as Sir Elton John, the end of the road is a looming inevitability. But when you're an artist of such hard-earned international adoration, you have the benefit of deciding when and where that gold-plated path ends. And it seems as though you can also decide whether or not "farewell" is genuinely farewell.

"It came to the point where I sang 'Yellow Brick Road' and I thought, 'I don't have to sing this anymore,' and it made me quite happy," John told a reporter. "Yeah, it could be the last gig forever."

That mournful quote wasn't from earlier this year when the 71-year old, born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, announced his ambitious plans for the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, his final trek before retiring from the touring life. No, that quote is from a 1976 interview with Rolling Stone, only six years removed from his first concerts on American soil.

See all of Elton John's tour stops in Dallas, from 1971 to 2018's farewell

Before a sold-out throng at American Airlines Center in Dallas, John and his professionally brilliant band of rock veterans offered convincing evidence that regardless of where a journey ends, one doesn't have to traverse meekly as it dwindles. For close to three hours, John revealed one classic cut after another, eschewing the usually awkward classic rock ritual of forcing newer, lesser-known material onto the crowd.

What do most farewell concert tours really mean these days, as the rock 'n' roll greats of the '60s, '70s and '80s stare down AARP membership? In 2014, 100,000 fans packed AT&T Stadium to wish country icon George Strait farewell before he retired from steady touring. But four years later, here we are planning trips to Vegas to see him perform, or breathlessly trying to get tickets to catch his next North Texas concert.

Just a few months ago, metal titans Slayer played to a sold out crowd in Dallas, a show the band had long advertised as its final ever stop here, only to announce months later there will be another final stop through the area in 2019. And, lest we forget, shock-rock forerunners KISS are soon coming to town on the latest iteration of their "last" tour, only a couple of decades after their other "goodbye tour."

Whether or not John is saying "farewell" to anything wasn't the beating heart of this show. This concert was less of a formal goodbye than it was an opportunity for fans to say "thank you."

Elton John performs "Bennie and the Jets" at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Friday, December 14, 2018 during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour.

Elton John performs "Bennie and the Jets" at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Friday, December 14, 2018 during his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour.

Ashley Landis/Staff Photographer

Opening with the bouncy, jaunty "Bennie and the Jets," the shoulder-shaking "All the Girls Love Alice," and the soaring "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues," John was soulful yet playful, gritty yet serene. Over the course of the night, pictures and film footage of John during all phases of his life and career lent weight to the proceedings. The video presentation offered visual proof of the changes in John's appearance, while beloved numbers such as "Rocket Man" and "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," divulged the evolution in his vocals.

From behind his piano, outfitted with his trademark bedazzled glasses and suit, he introduced "Border Song" by offering loving words about the recently deceased Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who recorded the song in 1970. Lovely black and white images of Franklin rolled on the massive screen behind the band.

Few aging icons can hit the notes that made them famous after five decades. Just as his contemporaries Willie Nelson or Billy Joel must now do, John adapts while retaining his identity. Those sky-high notes in "Rocket Man" were closer to the ground here, but still plenty dreamy. Opting for the lower register displayed a glorious confidence and security, rather than proof of an age-driven condemnation.

The passing years have done little to remove any vigor or versatility from his voice, regardless of which octaves he may or may not climb. And, that band of his? Guitarist Davey Johnstone, drummer Nigel Olsson and percussionist Ray Cooper made the case they deserve to be included in any discussion about the great bands of the current classic rock era. Moving and playing with the animation and agility that would exhaust most teenagers, the skilled contributions of John's longtime band were unmistakably vital.

"Levon" was a potent, piano heavy tune that led into an extended, thrilling band jam. "Candle in the Wind" was a loving tribute to another late friend, Princess Diana, while the countrified "Burn Down the Mission" morphed into a gospel-flavored rager. John authoritatively belted from the gut during "Believe," before unleashing a trio of pop-rock greatness with "I'm Still Standing" "Crocodile Rock," and "Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting,)" which brought the regular set to a confetti-covered close.

Draped in an ornately plush robe, John encored with "Your Song," and fittingly, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," another tune requiring an age-appropriate vocal approach. Whether or not that was the final song he'll sing in Dallas is still to be determined. After all, none of us are really in control, regardless of wealth or success. Time marches on, people pass away, and things simply change, but there's never any parting ways with the songs we love the most.

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