The BBC Radio Theatre, the scene of a tremendous showcase by Elton of Songs From The West Coast in September 2001. A dozen years later and he's back for yet another new one to show off. And show it off he did...the following is based on the audio broadcast of the show. Being outside the UK meant vision was impaired for, or more precisely non-existent. But aural is Elton's main job...
The Bitch Is Back opened up with slap hard blood thrusting momentum, any doubts about Elton's current condition left in no doubt when he exclaimed I'm Better Than You. After all his ills, the full MOT has served him well. Bennie had thunderous percussion, like marching machines. Matt's bass was witty, as was Elton's vocal. Davey throwing in some 80's style riff's, string flexing on the outro with pumping bass culminating in an explosive ending. Tiny Dancer, one of the most iconic intro's now I think, introduced itself to soothe the sweaty heads. And hands. Elton piano always dances on this one, the words hypnotise it do so. The weeping guitar, the 2Cello's chomping at the bit as they tick over nice and steady. A lovely deep bassy backdrop. Elton's vocal impassioned on the final chorus. As he said later, He loves to sing these songs. This way he does this one shows he likes it better than quite a few others.
Now the new stuff, and what good picks they take from the album. The choices were proved right since we've all heard it in full. Kim's wave samples, sounding like restless real breakers on Home Again. They have a haunting and eerie quality. Davey's guitar loiters with intent, a tasteful intent. The 2Cello's and percussion gradually emerge from the swell, adding vital colour to the scene. The backing vocals, angelic but not preachy. The Royal Academy brass whirring. Nigel's trademark slow drumming emerges...as fresh on a new song in 2013 as it was before I was even born. It hangs behind in close proximity, when needed it steps up to be counted. The piano and cellos are at one on the melody, the buildup on the solo is gradual, but as per usual the payoff is immense. A killer moment when Elton's vocal tips the scales to full. Not overweight, but muscular. Elton then explains how he writes the songs...I'm not making this bit up...as Oscar Wilde Gets Out is next to emerge. Ballad to mid tempo, pacing the key here. The thumping melodic intro, wistful cello's and the popping licks give this one a distinctive sound. The chorus is almost a sound scape based on a merry go around as all the band unite. Kim's humming organ, switches to low clavinet on the bridge, Elton's deeper vocal change perfectly accompanied by the snappy sound. The banjo replicates the melody impeccably, why wouldn't it? The sound of a Dubliner's instrument on a song about a Dubliner. Insight is a great thing...the band bring that to these new songs.
Goldy oldies re-appear, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, one of the all time great singles, as well the album, sounds 40 years young. A bit like myself...the soaring vocals, not just from the band, but from Elton first and foremost are knitted together with harmonious glue. Nigel's harmony vocal is prominent, his sweet voice with Elton's baritone an intoxicating concoction. Rocket Man with it's lung expanding, chest swelling intro is a riveting moment. His hanging onto the notes, letting them die with aching beauty is a showstopper. Thankfully, it doesn't. A classic telling of the classic song graduates with a dreamy, twirly outro. Levon then has Elton again with a cavernous sounding vocal, dark and deep as said cavern. Kim's glistening organ with Davey's guitar rasping on demand, with screams ordered in occasionally from the same commander. The bridge to the outro is one for Tata Vega to preside over. She along with the rest of the singers get the band under orders and they're off into rock and roll romp. Elton's 66 in human years, but in Elton years he's half a century younger. No growing old here, he's just aging racily like the mad dash he leads. Throwing out piano licks like a card shark, and holds them just as tight as said card dealer. Elton and the band are tight as a stacked deck...in case we never knew, Elton is indeed Still Standing. This a pacey end to the show, moist harmonies just as luscious as Elton's vocal on the final chorus. Better than he ever did?! You better believe it. That MOT he had recently has given the classic model a new lease of life. Saturday Night starts with a juddering sensation, the 2Cellos string bending the perfect reply to Elton's loose, breezy vocal. Matt's bass moving with equal fluidity. The outro is grinding like a precision tool for core drilling. The rolls on the piano brushed aside by Davey with a wailing attack from the axe at the end. Your Song is one for the road, the nostalgic feel of it has no hint of melancholy. Closing out a tight snappy set that had no time for breath to be caught. Plenty of time to breath when your dead...I think!!
The Bitch Is Back
Bennie And The Jets
Oscar Wilde Gets Out
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
I'm Still Standing
Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting