Elton John's Vegas Vacation
"We wanted to change the kind off show being done in Vegas," says Elton John, who launched a three-year, estimated $74 million-grossing engagement at Caesars Palace on February 13th. "We wanted to do something that had an edge to it." Indeed, the opening show was a musical and visual tour de force, with bare breasts, a little ballet and lots of classic Elton, including "Bennie and the jets" and "Rocket man." Tickets for The Red Piano – the next show is scheduled for March 23rd – are selling briskly. And for those who want more, an autographed red piano is available…for $30,000.
The flamboyant rocker conquers Sin City with visual flair
"This is me," Elton John told his opening-night Las Vegas audience, then pointed to a life-size effigy of his gaudy 1970s self that had just flown down from the rafters. "And that," he said, "was me."
That was a canny summation of Sir Elton's surprisingly personable and energetic show, which will play in the Colosseum at Caesar's Palace at least seventy-five times in the next three years during Celine Dion's nights off.
When the gig was announced, it seemed inevitable, and given John's legendary showmanship and the aging of his boomer fan base, maybe a wee bit, you know, sad. But John and his directory-designer, David LaChapelle, fashioned a dizzying sexy, emotional spectacle that both parodied expectations about Vegas glitz and put new life and meaning into fifteen of John's strongest songs.
John, a full-figured fifty-six, has a richer, deeper voice these days, and a masterful keyboard dexterity, but he no longer runs around the stage or tosses piano benches. For pizzazz, LaChapelle added a blend of mesmerizing big-screen videos and self-consciously ridiculous inflatable objects to the show, including squirting breasts and countless phallic symbols. The videos varied, from Pamela Anderson pole-dancing to black-and-white photojournalism of Mary Ellen Mark, to a blinding time-lapse encapsulation of Sin City for "Pinball Wizard." The most affecting clip was choreographed by John Byrne, an alluring, violent lovers' ballet set to "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." Despite the visual excess, John never appeared overwhelmed. Actually, he hadn't sounded this good in years, starting from the rockin' honky-tonk solo on the opener, "Bennie and the Jets," on through his reinvention of "Rocket Man," which sounded more soulful and guttural than the recorded version. In the end, the screens were turned off and John sat alone at the piano, surrounded by inflatable letters spelling out LOVE, singing "Your Song" with gusto and passion.
Here's hoping Celine takes more days off.