Rocket Woman: Boiling Spring Lakes resident on mission to meet Elton John
Melissa Thomas was in the crowd when Elton John performed his final U.S. concert at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
It was the Boiling Spring Lakes resident’s 62nd Elton John concert, and she summed the experience up in just one word: “bittersweet.”
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From concerts taking her around the country to writing a book called "Building My Yellow Brick Road" on her dream of meeting the legend, Thomas has achieved superfan status.
However, as she sat surrounded by celebrities, fans and friends in Los Angeles, she reflected on the end of a decades-long journey and that yet-to-be-fulfilled dream.
Elton's songs say so much
For Thomas, the love of John and his music began when she was a middle school student rifling through her father’s cassette tapes. One of them, John’s iconic “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album, caught her eye. She popped it in her boom box and pressed play.
While she can’t recall the first song she heard, she does remember it resonating with her.
“I remember feeling like, ‘Oh my goodness. What is this music,’ and just being completely taken in by the music and in awe of it,” Thomas recalled. “From that point forward, every time Elton put out a new CD, I was there the day it dropped.”
Years later, Thomas, then a 19-year-old living in Cary, found out John would be performing at the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre in Raleigh. She asked her parents if she could attend, and they consented with the condition that she find someone to go with her.
Thomas asked her boss, and she agreed.
“She and her brother-in-law went with me to the concert, and that was Elton’s ‘The One’ tour,” she said.
Thomas was in the row just outside of the awning, and it was raining.
“I had bought a poster, and I remember for most of the concert holding the poster out in front of me to try to keep it underneath the awning so it wouldn’t get wet,” she said.
Afterward, Thomas took the poster to a framing shop and “spent an ungodly amount of money” to have it framed.
“It hangs in the hallway of my house right now,” she said. “It’s traveled with me everywhere I’ve gone.”
Mission: Meet the ‘Rocket Man’
At that first concert, Thomas decided she wanted to meet the “Rocket Man” singer someday. She began thinking about what she would need to make it a reality. The answer was simple: she needed to go to wherever John would be.
“Because he’s not coming to see me,” she explained.
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She knew he would always be at the concerts, and she decided to attend as many as she could. It was an appealing idea because from that very first time, she had fallen in love with the concert atmosphere. Years later, her friends would ask her to explain the allure.
“The energy is the only way I know how to explain it,” Thomas said. “There are thousands of people that are all happy, and there’s just a special energy. Yes, Elton is great, and the band is great, but the people who are there are singing and dancing. And for two-and-half hours, you’re just in this space where nothing else matters. It’s kind of an escape.”
She doesn't have a particular favorite song, since any "favorite" changes often, Thomas said.
Over the years, Thomas attended concert after concert, with each experience bringing her one step closer to her dream of meeting John. She admits there have been times when people have not been supportive. When she began dating, there were several men who said her love of Elton John was a deal-breaker, and she had to let them go. But then she met her husband Jack, and while he doesn’t attend the concerts, he supports her and watches their sons while she is away.
Thomas, who has a strong faith, believes Jack was God-sent because he has believed in her and her dream. Her sons, who are now teenagers, also don’t want to go to the concerts, and Thomas is fine with that.
“This is my thing; it’s like a hobby,” she said.
Not yet Goodbye (Yellow Brick Road)
While Thomas has yet to fulfill her dream, she has attended so many concerts, she refers to the musician as “Elton” in conversation, and the people she’s met at fan events and concerts are known as her “Elton friends.”
Her travels have taken her to Massachusetts, Florida, and just last week, California. She explains there was a time in her life she began to have some doubts about ever meeting John in person, but she continued to go to the concerts because she enjoyed the experience.
“But what happens when I go to the concerts? I meet more people, and eventually, I got to the point where my seats were closer to the stage, and I got to meet people who had been to more concerts than I had,” she explained. “I met people who knew people who had met Elton, and finally, I got to the point where I met people who had met Elton. So, then I was like, ‘Well, if you met Elton, why can’t I meet him?’ Then it became why can’t I?”
She's been close. On New Year’s Eve in 2014, she attended a concert in Brooklyn. She purchased backstage tour tickets that allowed her to sit at one of John’s five custom-made concert pianos. Then at a concert in Las Vegas, she had purchased a ticket in the first five rows, which gave her the opportunity to stand on stage for one song.
She explains while it was “a very orchestrated type of thing,” she was mere inches away from him.
“We were standing around the piano, and he turned around to high-five everybody, and I stuck my hand out, and he shook my hand,” she recalled.
Afterward, many people told her that by shaking his hand, she had achieved her dream of meeting him. But Thomas said that’s not true.
“Yes, that’s a great moment, and I will always love that moment, but my dream is to meet him. A formal introduction and maybe a 30-second conversation,” she said. “But shaking his hand, that’s just one step closer to the dream.”
Right now, John is scheduled to perform his final concert in Sweden in the summer of 2023, and Thomas said attending that one is not off the table.
“There have been discussions of getting a group of people together to go,” she said.
Even though the curtain has closed on his American tour, Thomas is not giving up on her dream.
“As long as Elton’s alive, it’s possible,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Elton John super fan, Boiling Spring Lakes woman looks to meet legend