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Superstar Elton John kicks off French farewell tour

British singer and pianist Elton John has begun the French leg of his global farewell tour, just days ahead of being awarded la Légion d'Honneur - France's highest civilian honour - by President Macron at the Élysée Palace this week.

The performer took to the Pierre-Mauroy stage in Villeneuve d'Ascq near Lille on Tuesday June 18, for the first of his four show dates scheduled in France over the coming week. Addressing the crowd in French, he said: “I’m going to miss you so much!”.

The legendary entertainer - born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in northwest London in 1947 - is expected to receive the Légion d'Honneur accolade from President Emmanuel Macron on Friday (June 21; national day of Fête de la Musique).

During the first show - to an audience of just over 26,000 - the singer was wearing his signature flamboyant style and oversized, glittery glasses. He played for 2 hours 45 minutes, including some of his most famous numbers, such as Rocketman, Bennie and the Jets, Daniel, Tiny Dancer, Take Me to the Pilot, and Candle in the Wind.

The show also included a number of smoke, light, and film effects, and cycled between songs with a full band, and tracks featuring Elton John playing solo piano.

The singer paused frequently to address the audience - in both English and French - and spoke candidly of his struggles with drugs and alcohol; much of which is also featured in the recent cinema release of the Dexter Fletcher film Rocketman, on which Mr John was executive producer, and his partner David Furnish co-producer.

Mr John also spoke of his AIDS foundation, which has raised $450 million (€398 million) since its foundation in 1992.

He said: “This has been an incredible adventure over the past 50 years. I am going to miss you so much.” He thanked fans for their “loyalty” and “generosity”, and said: “You are in my heart and soul, but it is time for me to open a new chapter in my life.”

The date was the first of a planned circuit of France, which is itself part of the world Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour - named after the singer’s standout 1973 album, itself inspired by the Wizard of Oz.

Mr John is set to play in Paris today (Thursday June 20), Bordeaux this Saturday (June 22) and in Nîmes on Sunday (June 23).

The world tour began in the US in September 2018, and will continue throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, South America and Australsia, before concluding in 2021.

The singer, now aged 72 and father of two boys with Mr Furnish, has said that this is very likely to be his last global tour, as he would like to spend more time with his family.

Two more Elton John dates have already been announced in France: October 10 and 11, 2020, in Paris.

Elton John has sold over 300 million records in his career. He has openly spoken of his love of France in previous years, and owns a restored 1920s villa in Nice.

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