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Ever the showman, Elton embraces Las Vegas style
Ever the showman, Elton embraces Las Vegas style

LAS VEGAS — Nobody loses in Elton John's high-stakes gambol. After selling 200 million albums, the 56-year-old icon has reached the age and stage when many superstars hit Las Vegas to cash in on nostalgia. Instead, John is bucking the odds with an ambitious and dicey revue.
The Red Piano, named after his lacquered Yamaha grand, is too stately a title for this eye-popping, jaw-dropping spree (**** out of four), which opened Friday night at the 4,100-seat Colosseum in Caesars Palace.

Committing to 75 shows over three years, John is one of Celine Dion's vacation stand-ins at the $95 million venue built specifically for the Canadian diva. He's no second banana. He and photographer David LaChapelle deliver a first-rate technical knockout that masterfully synchronizes sound and vision.

The show takes full advantage of John's strengths as a natural showman, skilled pianist and strong singer (though he no longer chases the high notes in tunes such as Tiny Dancer). Music dominates as he and his band barrel through 15 songs in 100 minutes, yet John nearly vanishes in the foreground while a visual smorgasbord unfolds on a monster LED screen.

LaChapelle, Red Piano's director and designer, bombards the senses with brilliant video montages and riveting short films. Instead of distracting attention from John's melodic rock and timeless pop balladry, the eye candy sharpens the focus on music by plugging into its themes and emotions.

During Philadelphia Freedom, psychedelic footage rolls amid images of rhythmic human movement, from body builders and showgirls to go-go dancers and drum majorettes. The alienation of Rocket Man is conveyed in a backstage docudrama with Justin Timberlake as a young Elton besieged by groupies, reporters, photographers and hangers-on, shot in slo-mo to drive home the sense of isolation and claustrophobia.

Daniel, its vague lyrics wed to the saga of a sleeping boy aging into a dying soldier, has a touching beauty. I Want Love and Your Song also imbue poignancy, as does Candle in the Wind, restored as a love letter to Marilyn Monroe, who is portrayed by a dead ringer as playful, vulnerable and tragic.

The show, to be presented nowhere else, draws inspiration from the decadent glitz of Sin City, seen distressed and undressed in a stage strewn with giant neon fixtures and puerile but whimsical inflatables of big breasts, garter-clad legs, lips, a hot dog, ice cream cone and suggestively posed bananas and cherries. Gloriously tacky Vegas wedding chapels, Elvis impersonators and gamblers decorate Pinball Wizard.

And in the most buzzed-about number, The Bitch Is Back finds Pamela Anderson all too convincing as a pole-dancing stripper in pasties and rhinestones. The choreography is less salacious but more captivating in Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me and the raucous Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting.

Chunks of The Red Piano could be as garish and hollow as the Vegas Strip if not for the warmth and sturdiness of John's music. When the glitter settles, Sir Elton is still standing as one of pop's indestructible talents.

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USA Today (International Edition)
Monday February 16th, 2004
Ever the Showman, Elton embraces Las Vegas Style
Red Piano Revue excites eyes as well as ears
Las Vegas- Nobody loses in Elton John's high-stakes gamble.
After selling 200 million albums, the 56-year-old icon has reached the age and stage when many superstars hit Las Vegas to cash in on nostalgia. Instead, John is bucking the odds with an ambitious and dicey revue.

Review
By Edna Gunderson
The Red Piano, named after his lacquered Yamaha grand, is too stately a title for his eye-popping, jaw-dropping spree ( out of four), which opened Friday night at the 4.100-seart Colosseum in Caesar's Palace.
Committing to 75 shows over three years, John is one of Celine Dion's vacation stand-ins at the $95 million venue built specifically for the Canadian diva. He's no second banana. John and photographer David LaChapelle have crafted a first-rate production that masterfully marries sound and vision.

The show takes full advantage of John's strength as a natural showman, skilled pianist and strong singer (though he no longer chases the high notes in tunes such as Tiny Dancer). Music dominates as he and his crack band barrel through 15 songs in 100 minutes, yet John nearly vanishes in the foreground while a visual smorgasbord unfolds on a monster LED screen.

LaChapelle, Red Piano's director and designer, bombards the senses with brilliant video montages and riveting short films. Instead of distracting attention from John's melodic rock and timeless pop balladry, the eye candy sharpens the focus on music by plugging into its themes and emotions. During Philadelphia freedom, psychedelic footage rolls amid images of rhythmic human movement, from body builders and showgirls to go-go dancers and drum majorettes. The alienation of Rocket Man is conveyed in a back stage docudrama with Justin Timberlake as a young Elton designed by groupies, reporters, photographers and hungers on, shot in slo-mo to drive home the sense of isolation and claustrophobia.

Daniel provides one of the evening's most moving segments in a disturbing story line of a beautiful boy aging into a wounded solider. And Candle in the Wind is restored to its original form as a love letter to Marilyn Monroe, portrayed by a dead ringer as playful, vulnerable and despairing. The show, which will be seen no where else, draws inspiration from the decadent glitz of Sin City, seen distressed and undressed in a stage strewn with giant neon fixtures and puerile but whimsical inflatable of big breasts, garter-clad legs, lips, a hot dog, ice cream cone and cherries. Gloriously tacky Vegas wedding chapels, Elvis impersonators and gambles decorate Pinball Wizard. And in the most buzzed-about number, The bitch is Back finds Pamela Anderson all too convincing as a pole dancing stripper in pasties and rhinestones. The choreography is less salacious but more captivating in Don't let the Sun Go Down on Me and the raucous Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting.

Chunks of The Red Piano could as garish and hallow as the Vegas Strip if not for the warmth and sturdiness of John's music. When the glitter settles, Sir Elton is still standing as one of pop's indestructible talents.