Designing A Farewell Tour Fit For Elton John, Part One

"Bennie and the Jets"
(Noah Campeau, Treatment Studio) "Bennie and the Jets"

Music and fashion icon Sir Elton John has sold over 300 million records during his 50-year career, in which he collected an assortment of the highest awards, including five Grammy Awards, five Brit Awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Tony Award, and more. His career, much like his stunning outfits, has dazzled millions.

For his final tour, Farewell Yellow Brick Road, which will consist of more than 300 shows across five continents, John mustered a team of his trusted creative directors to help commemorate the end of this vibrant era in appropriate style: David Furnish, Tony King, Sam Pattinson, and Patrick Woodroffe. King and Pattinson led on video content, while Woodroffe handled lighting design. Stufish Entertainment Architects designed the stage, with engineering, build, and automation by TAIT.

"Rocket Man"

"Rocket Man" photo by Noah Campeau/Treatment Studio

“There is no one like Elton, really, who has had a career like him, and in such a colorful way,” says King. “So many different versions of Elton have come along from the very grand, 1970 period when he had all those extremely fantastic Bob Mackie costumes and incredible glasses, and then later on, when he comes out dressed as the Statue of Liberty, and then of course, the famous Central Park concert where he came out dressed as Donald Duck and found that he couldn’t walk in the flippers once he got the costume on. His whole life has been such a broad spectrum of spectacular events, and the tour had to embody that.”

“This tour is very personal to Elton,” adds Pattinson, principal of Treatment Studio. “It is a real celebration of his career, his life, and his music.” Wrapping around the stage and massive LED screen is a richly ornamented Yellow Brick Road portal, beautifully sculpted by Jacqui Pyle, that depicts 13 specific moments, handpicked by John and Furnish, from working with Leon Russell to John Lennon to Billie Jean King. Posters of album artwork, musicals he has written music for, and foundations he is dedicated to are scattered within the details of the gilded portal, creating a framework for the show’s narrative. The video screen slopes down, enveloping the band, and creating another dimension for the video content, which was managed and produced by Treatment Studio.

"You Gotta Love Someone"

"Someone Saved My Life Tonight" photo by Noah Campeau/Treatment Studio

King, who has known John through all five decades of his illustrious career, notes, “It was very important to get the emotional tone of this show correct because Elton has a very personal relationship with his fans. They know his catalogue, and many of the people have come to see him multiple times over the years in different shows. So it is very important to give them something special that they would always remember because it is the last of the tours that he is ever going to do.”

“A great thing about working with Elton is that he gives us a good sense of the set list very early on in the process, so it helps us break the show down,” explains Pattinson. “Overall, we wanted the theme of the tour to be color since he’s had such a colorful career. We also didn’t want to be entirely retrospective even though we were in different decades in Elton’s Life and career. We wanted to maintain a very contemporary design.”

"Take Me to the Pilot"

"Take Me to the Pilot" photo by Noah Campeau/Treatment Studio

Since John’s catalogue of songs is so varied, the content needed to be just as diverse. “It encourages you to have lots of different ideas,” continues Pattinson. “After our first meeting, it took three or four months to get to a stage where we had ideas or treatments in place for every single song. It was a real evolution of the show design as a whole. We had to determine how we could hold everything together before we could really decide on the various content.”

Read Part Two!

Creative Team

Creative Direction: David Furnish, Tony King, Sam Pattinson, Patrick Woodroffe

Video Design: Treatment Studio -

Video Production

Video Production Company: Treatment Studio

Executive Producer: Sam Pattinson

Producer: Lizzie Pocock

Animation Team: Kooch Chung, Susana Yamamoto, Dave Shepherd, Brad Purnell, Ronnie Deelen, Gareth Blayney, Mark Hough, Chris Cousins, Sam Brickman, Terry Scruby, Simon Russell, Alex Eckford, Rosalvo Melo, Catherine Woodhouse, Noah Campeau

Editor: Warren Chapman

Production Manager: Helen Campbell for Treatment Studio

Researcher and archivist: Matthew Sanger

Production Assistants: Sam Brickman and George Stone

 “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”: Lisa Wrake [Original illustrations by Alan Aldridge]

“Border Song”: Joseph Guay

“Believe”: Steve Sawalich

“The Bitch Is Back”: Steve Corfe, World of Wonder

“Candle In The Wind”: David LaChapelle

“Daniel”: David LaChapelle

“Tiny Dancer”: Max Weilland

“I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”: Photography courtesy of Martin Parr

“Philadelphia Freedom”: Sammy Rawal

“Bennie and the Jets”: Illustrations by Richard Killroy

“Shoot Producers”: Giles Maunsell and Matt Cummings

“Director of Photography”: Matt North

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