'Nigel was born to play that kind of song, that’s just the way it is.'
Davey Johnstone, April 2012
Why Nigel? Descriptive, choosy, and knowing. Not a case of finding the right part, but creating it. In his style. The big numbers always rolled Nigel's way perfectly. DLTS, SSMLT truly standout pieces, influential and groundbreaking. The legacy and impact those songs had cannot be underestimated.
The second decade of the 21st Century still finds Elton on the road. And Nigel, after all the swivelling of the drum seat, is firmly entrenched again. And still delivering the pounds and beats with a fine balance of firmness and tenderness. Never one to overplay, the very opposite in fact. He just lets the lead have it's moment and fills the space accordingly and times his parts with the up most taste. None more so on this number, one of a number of songs on The Union that were stunted during their childhood but blossomed later when they went out into the world on tour. This one flourished in particular. Unfortunately the Mellotron flute part by Kim Bullard introducing the song is missing from this clip. A little touch, but vital and relevant. The Brian Wilson vocals of the album cut are enhanced by the singers, carefully building a back drop of a sound wall for Elton's passionate delivery. Leon was in far better form on this leg of the tour than his poor (due to illness) performance in New York the previous October. A stronger vocal in tandem with his piano playing, both distinctive and unique.
Davey's guitar parts...what can one say. On this blog I keep referencing edge. The element that sets Elton apart from his contemporaries, his predecessor and those who came in his wake. The song is a weepy, the tissue brigade is on full alert for this one. But when you toughen it up, the delivery is stronger. And therefore you can get through the emotional journey with equal tenacity. His guitar flips from the background to the foreground, it hums and snarls. Nigel's drums vibrate with a deafening delay. His lines are clean and straight, he picks each moment with precision and backs off when the verses are being delivered, perfect balance always being attained.
So the moment of the song we've been waiting for has arrived. The bridge on this song is easily one of Elton's greatest triumphs. I mentioned SSMLT earlier, the bridge on it is a steady buildup to a triumphant final chorus. Helped in no small part to Nigel. A birthright you might say...the bridge here is a corker that you wait to pop. The tension is slowly stirred, Kim's steady build up is a majestically orchestral piece that creates the scene. Nigel's fills are like slaps from a compressor of steel. Tough, sweet and ear vibrating. Another contributory factor to the final payoff. Elton's vocal lifts off again and the harmonies are solidly behind him. The wall of sound envelopes the air, with flighty weightlessness. Nigel's drumming is steady and fierce to enhance the edginess foil, when he comes back in they are bombastic and beautiful in an instant. On top of which is the final layer from Davey when he throws in a stinging guitar line, the perfect topping on an already deliciously layered cake.
A song like this is already a perfect creation, I was lucky enough to hear the solo version in 2010. But in this form you can hear a fleshing out, not fattening mind, of an already well created moment. Born for this moment...listen to this version...listen to the album cut. One has life, power and determination. The other is on the album...