John’s actual last performance in the United States, a curious and minor epilogue to his grand adieu, was on Tuesday night when he briefly stopped traffic in one of America’s busiest commercial stretches to open the Christmas shopping season as the surprise guest performer at Saks Fifth Avenue’s annual reveal of its holiday windows and light show. It’s not the typical way one would expect a 75-year old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer to follow up the end of a 271-show stretch he started planning seven years ago.
But Saks is donating $1 million to the Elton John AIDS Foundation. And he and his family — his husband, David Furnish, and their two sons Zachary, 11, and Elijah, 9 — were already heading east to get back home to London. So, why not?
“I can’t think of a more magical way to close out my Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour in the U.S. than by being here on Fifth Avenue with my family, experiencing both my music and my work with the Elton John AIDS Foundation incorporated into New York’s most iconic holiday window displays and light show,” John said in a perfectly articulated quote to Saks PR, who were kind enough to pass it along to The Washington Post.
Furnish called it “a cherry on top of an incredibly beautiful cake” and “a very special one-off” in a phone interview. The whole point of doing it is because it is “an opportunity for EJAF,” said Furnish, who is also the foundation’s chairman of the board and John’s manager. But, as a bonus, “It’s going to kick off our family Christmas, which is wonderful,” he said.
As the hour grew near, police blocked off Fifth Avenue between 50th and 49th streets outside Saks’s flagship store. A sea of tourists, many in town for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, rushed into the traffic void, jostling to get a better look, without a clue that John was on his way, and with a stream of honking buses and taxis and pedicabs backed up behind them.
At exactly 7 p.m., a crew raced to wheel out a piano onto the pavement and two minutes later, John made his grand entrance, riding in on a golf cart decorated with big light-up stars, in a green jacket with red track pants, waving and blowing kisses. He thanked Saks, had David and the kids join him onstage for a countdown, and then launched into a heartfelt rendition of “Your Song.”
And only “Your Song.”
“It’s one song because we can’t close Fifth Avenue down for very long or we’re going to have a lot of angry New Yorkers,” said Furnish, laughing. “Your Song” was John’s choice because it was…