In the most relaxed attire he has worn in years, Elton took the humid stage with his band on September 7, 2001, to perform six songs from his awaited new album Songs From the West Coast, on Top of the Pops 2, to be televised on Britain's BBC2 on Wednesday, September 26, 2001, at 6pm (1700 GMT).
Wearing a stockbroker's unassuming charcoal grey jacket and a formal blue shirt which was undone at the top, Elton took the stage at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London, at about 6pm, for a belter show of 10 songs spanning about 1 and a half hours. And judging by my work clothes, he was not the only one!
The band line-up included Davey Johnstone on guitar, and the first UK outing for Nigel Olsson, back in the band on drums for the first time in 17 years.
Guy Babylon on keyboards, Bob Birch on bass, and John Mahon on percussion completed the set.
Elton acknowledged his crowd, standing room only, as the party began with I'm Still Standing
But Elton was in a rush, and the songs were belted out like fast food, with little introduction or crowd interaction - but then in the hot and sticky studio the fans knew what they were asked to do by the BBC crew!
The reason for Elton's mild-mannered impatience was word that he was overbooked for an Italian TV show later that night. He was therefore keen to get through the showcase of songs fast to make the plane. Hence, two more songs, new song off the Songs from the West Coast album, Wasteland and encore song Crocodile Rock were scrapped.
Much to the fans' delight, Elton remarked that one of his favourite songs on the new album is the fans' favourite - Original Sin.
For many Elton fans, it was also the first time they had seen Nigel in the band after his long hiatus. For me it was magical - having taken up so much of his time on the phone from California, that now I could see those nimble wrists in action!
As some of us had been at the recent playback of the entire album, Elton appeared a little surprised to see some fans knowing most of the words of the new material.
Here is a full line up of the songs performed:
- I'm Still Standing
- Border Song
- Birds +
- I Want Love +
- American Triangle +
- Ballad of the Boy with the Red Shoes +
- Original Sin +
- This Train Don't Stop There Anymore +
- Bennie And The Jets
- Saturday Night's Alright (For Fightin')
The old classics also featured new variations.
+ denotes a new song from the forthcoming album Songs From the West Coast