July 04, 2014

DVD Review: Elton John - The Million Dollar Piano

Following the tremendous success of The Red Piano, which closed in 2009 after a highly celebrated and lucrative five-year run, Elton John returned to the Colosseum stage at Caesars Palace in 2011 to premiere an all new revue, The Million Dollar Piano. A recently released concert film from Eagle Rock Entertainment (which captures a show from 2012) reveals the Las Vegas production to be a magnificent confluence of music and multimedia, complete with a technologically tricked-out, custom-made Yamaha grand piano (at a cost of four million dollars, to be exact) and a stage set festooned with the sort of majestic, Baroque-inspired grandiosity that probably reminds the Rocket Man of one of his living rooms. 

“It has to be a little over the top,” Elton says in a supplemental, behind-the-scenes featurette. “It’s Vegas.” 

Such multimedia extravagance no doubt enriches the overall experience for those actually in attendance, although its impact is understandably a bit muted for those viewing at home. Still, the show is sensational, as Elton and his band sail through a diverse survey of one of pop music’s preeminent catalogs. If his voice lacks some of the finesse of old—the distinctive high notes on “Tiny Dancer” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” for instance, are handled by backup singers these days—his passion is as strong as ever. Indeed the hits are invested with the conviction and vitality they deserve, yet the concert’s most thrilling moments come from back-to-back album tracks “Better Off Dead” and “Indian Sunset,” the latter featuring legendary percussionist Ray Cooper in a tour de force performance. Longtime fans will also recognize bassist John Birch, who committed suicide later the same year. If this turns out to be the last commercially released concert with him on the stage, it will stand as a most-rewarding farewell.