Nigel Olsson is one of the busiest musos on tour anywhere around the globe, with more than 50 years on the road and "closing-in" on his 3000th show.

But despite spending more time than anyone else on stage, much of it in the back seat, the drummer who turns 70 on Monday has no thoughts of ending it with the Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour of long-time boss Elton John which, with a schedule of 300 concerts, kicked off in the US in September and comes to the Mission Concert in Napier on February 8 next year.

In a 20-minute phone interview this week from the US, two hours before the night's show at the fully-enclosed 18,000-seat Pepsi Center, with a blizzard and temperatures below zero outside in Denver, Colorado, Olsson is as enthusiastic as he must have been when he first stepped on stage with John as he answers the question, asked with a certain amount of assumption: "What comes after the farewell tour?"

As it happens, it's a question asked often, of Olsson and fellow boys in the band, including ultimate stayer, guitarist and backing vocalist Davey Johnstone and percussionist Ray Cooper.


"Another farewell tour," says Olsson, question mark-hanging. Wouldn't that be nice.

The thing about Olsson is that he enjoys it so much not a lot of else matters, so long as the punters are happy as well, and when the first of more than 20,000 Mission Concert 2020 tickets go on sale there's no reason to think it will be any different in Hawke's Bay.

"It's just an attitude that we all have," he says. "We love what we do, and these days with the world going crazy while we can look out across the audience knowing we are putting a smile on the faces we will still do it. That's our job, we're still doing it, and having a great time."

It's no different for Elton John, who told one audience in the US recently: "Playing live to other human beings is the greatest gift any artist could ever have."

Olsson started with John in the pre-John days of Reginald Dwight, and has had an individual career, which stretched to six albums of his own, most of it during 17 years out of the Elton John frame, to which he returned 19 years ago, as a background singer, who could also play guitar.

Despite the gap, Olsson has played most of John's New Zealand tours and says he loves the country. "You haven't seen green till you see New Zealand," he says.

While John has always featured high on the list of The Mission's most wanted, none of the previous tours made it to the Bay.

John loves Art Deco and is therefore looking forward to experiencing some of it Napier-style at the height of the season, albeit with precious little time.


There is a small window of opportunity, with a rare four-day break between concerts after the Farewell tour New Zealand leg opens on February 4. If it were a choice between, say, Queenstown and Art Deco Napier, for a bit of R&R then Napier might get the nod.

But it was all pressure as he signed-off in Denver, saying he'd be off any minute to the concert.

"I'm getting nervous now," he said. "I still get nervous, but as soon as I'm on stage I'm into it."