Elton John isn't simply an entertainer any more. He is a true bona fide icon - one of the greats.
So when I heard he was coming to Norwich it was a shock. Even now I find it hard to believe that I have watched two and a half hours of brilliance from one of rock 'n' roll's most flamboyant characters.
Two hours before the turnstiles opened, thousands of people were already there in party mood. Fans of every age mixed happily outside as they waited to get into the Carrow Road stadium to find their seats.
Dressed for the occasion
There were even a few people dressed as the Rocket Man of old with feather boas and over-sized glittery glasses. The people of Norwich were out to party and the overcast skies were not going to dampen their spirits.
As people took their seats, the party was warmed up by Lulu. Starting with Celebrate by Kool And The Gang, she bounded around the massive stage and enticed a few fans out of their seats to strut a few steps.
She looked great, dressed head to toe in black, as she ran through a 45-minute set which included David Bowie’s Man Who Sold The World and the New Radicals hit single You Get What You Give.
Relight My Fire was received like a long-lost friend and even without Take That sounded great.
|Lulu wowed the crowd with her warm-up |
Saving the best until last, she belted out a cracking version of her biggest hit, Shout. This was greeted with a massive cheer as almost everyone in the arena found their feet for the first proper boogie of the day.
As good as Lulu was, there was really only one star the crowd had come to see and at the stroke of 7.30pm the pop legend took to the stage.
I don't get star-struck but it was hard not to get over-excited when Elton John was only a few feet away - and I think 20,000 people felt the same judging by the huge roar
that went up around the stadium.
Wasting no time, he flew into Pinball Wizard and so began one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.
Hunched over his grand piano, Elton hammered at the keys - still playing with passion even after all these years. This was followed by a rousing Bennie And The Jets which left the audience breathless.
There are not many performers that can offer an opening salvo like that and still carry the momentum through, but this is Elton John and as he dropped the tempo for Daniel, it was clear there wasn't going to be dull moment.
The Rocket Man
Take Me To The Pilot followed an emotionally-charged version of Rocket Man. Building on the original version, Elton and his band expanded it into a 10-minute epic which brought the audience to their feet in awe.
Rather fittingly given that we were at the home of the recently demoted Canaries, Elton launched into I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues before he dedicated Sacrifice to Delia Smith.
With one mention of her name, calls of "Let's be 'avin you" rang across the ground before she was treated to standing ovation.
Ray Charles remembered
|Elton John rocks!|
Before Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, Elton paid a moving tribute to the late Ray Charles. The two re-recorded this track for Charles' Genius Loves Company album a few months before he died.
As a tribute Elton played Funeral For A Friend before cranking the pace back up with Are You Ready for Love.
Most artists have a couple of backing singers, but not Elton. Elton has a 10-strong gospel choir from Atlanta which was enough to get everyone to stand up and sang along.
But one of the standout moments came when Elton launched into Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me - as the sunset and darkness fell on Carrow Road.
Before people got too melancholy the mood was charged with a blistering performance of I'm Still Standing which led to impromptu dancing breaking out around the ground.
This was quickly followed by the Bitch Is Back. During the chorus Elton jumped on to his piano stool while in 40ft letters the word bitch flashed behind him. Perfect.
Setting the pace
Not letting the tempo slip, Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting finished off the crowd. Anyone who wasn't already dancing was now, as the gangways and aisles became bustling dance floors.
After disappearing for a few minutes, Elton returned and whipped everyone into a frenzy again with a frantic Crocodile Rock, as he ran along the edge of the stage urging people to sing - needless to say they really didn't need the encouragement.
For the evening's final song, Elton changed into one of his trademark tracksuits and sat at his piano for the last time. Simply lit by a spotlight and some twinkling stars, we were treated to Your Song.
This has to be one of, if not the most, moving things I have ever witnessed: a note
perfect Elton John singing to more than 20,000 people and them singing back to him.
Couples danced gently in the moonlight while others stood and cried. It was a truly breathtaking spectacle.
As we filed out, tired but ecstatic, the overwhelming mood was one of celebration which wasn't just down to the fantastic performance but due to Norwich City Football Club's ability to hold such events.
Many local music lovers have always hoped they could do it - now everyone knows they can. Hopefully there will be many more spellbinding nights to come.
Elton John and Lulu played at Carrow Road, Norwich, on Sunday 29 May, 2005.
Use the links below to see the photo gallery.