Elton John’s ‘Million Dollar Piano’ a thoughtful look back

Elton John sits relaxed at the piano, talking about meeting Nelson Mandela and watching Honey Boo Boo.

“This is a wonderful life that I lead,” he tell us. “I’m enjoying it even more than ever.”

We believe him, and some of us can even feel a little grateful the 66-year-old spent part of his last 10 years on the Strip. Given the ticket prices, locals aren’t likely to go see him several times a year. But the option is on the table, has been more than 300 times since the Colosseum at Caesars Palace opened.

Small wonder then, that Caesars shows up in the video montage supporting “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” a stroll through the singer’s career that’s computer-animated to look something like a pop-up book.

The Caesars marquee shows up next to one for “Billy Elliot,” the 2008 Broadway hit that came during his first run at Caesars. The musical pulls into The Smith Center for the Performing Arts on May 14, three nights after the man himself wraps up this batch of his “Million Dollar Piano” retrospective.

Stick to The Smith to hear the “Billy” tunes because “Piano” is decidedly a look back. But it’s a thoughtful look back, not just a phone-in of the hits. And it’s a revealing one if you’re sifting through “Gnomeo & Juliet” or the “Leather Jackets” album to find the core of his work.

Of 18 songs played, 13 of them were released from 1971 to 1975. Three are from “Madman Across the Water.” No wonder he has said he “had to go back to go forward” for his long-delayed 30th album, “The Diving Board,” finally due in September.

John’s last few albums, in fact, abandoned any stab at pop currency and returned to the timeless sound of the early ’70s. He even has a pair of cellists in the band — a Croatian duo know as 2Cellos — to approximate their string-prominent arrangements.

All this might explain the evening’s biggest curiosity, the “cinematic” piece, as he tells the crowd, called “Indian Sunset.” It runs nearly seven minutes on the “Madman” album, and he performs it here with assist from only Ray Cooper, his longtime percussion sidekick.

For casual fans, it’s a restroom break. For those who hung in with him over the years, a sign that the creative spirit is still alive. For casino executives who fret over whether it’s Vegas friendly? He earned it.

The casual fans are well tended anyway. The two-hour show’s bookends are more the fun you would expect on the Caesars stage. The “Also Sprach Zarathustra” fanfare synonymous with Elvis (and “2001: A Space Odyssey”) heralds his arrival in a Liberace cape, leading into the opening punches of “The Bitch Is Back” and “Bennie and the Jets.”

Most people know he lost the high end of his vocal range eons ago. And the Colosseum sound is so crystal clear, little flourishes from the eight-piece band (plus four singers) that probably aren’t even noticed in sports arenas can distract from his piano and voice on chestnuts such as “Rocket Man” and “Tiny Dancer.”

But the heart of the show comes 40 minutes in, when the band risers roll away in two directions and John is left at the piano to tell the stories behind “Your Song” and “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.” The half-hour of stripped-down arrangements ends with “Empty Garden,” the John Lennon tribute he says he performs only in New York and Las Vegas.

Versace-inspired scenery closes down the massive stage for much of the show but rolls away near the end, revealing the Colosseum’s gigantic video screen and a few stingy camera close-ups of the singer and the band.

(Oddly enough, a restroom run will reveal that the lobby TVs run a full feed that’s like watching a DVD, fully directed with multiple camera angles. So if you’re in the upper balcony and want to see what Elton looks like, make sure to go for a stretch.)

Conceptual video isn’t the main attraction as it was during his “Red Piano” years at Caesars. In a few cases, such as “Philadelphia Freedom,” the new, toned-down visuals make you miss the old ones. But for the most part, the focus is on the right place: the man at the piano.

Speaking of focus, here’s a sign of the times. When he first started letting people onstage for “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” they got up there and danced. Ten years later, they circle in and film him with their phone cameras.

What will they be doing in another 10 years? Sure hope he’s at Caesars so we can find out.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@
reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like