Date: Monday, March 30th, 2015
Line Up: Sir Elton John
Location: The Colosseum in Caesars Palace. Las Vegas, NV
Elton John Live @ The Colosseum in Caesars Palace. Las Vegas, NV
The lights dimmed and upon hearing the opening strains of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, we knew exactly when Sir Elton John would make his appearance. In true Elton John fashion, he appeared at the climax of the piece, wearing a gold sequined cape, arms raised triumphantly in the air. The crowd went wild and without uttering a word, he sat down at the piano for a self-deprecating rendition of “The Bitch is Back”, lyrics written by his long-time lyricist, Bernie Taupin after a particularly difficult and frustrating day with John. He transitioned immediately into “Bennie and Jets” before welcoming the sold out crowd, drawing attention to the other Caesars Palace resident headliners, “Welcome to the Colosseum! Home of Celine Dion… that skinny bitch… and my good friend, Rod Stewart!”
The flamboyancy of his youth was reserved for the amazing stage graphics and the much touted “million dollar piano” he played throughout the night. He wore just enough bling to let us know he still didn’t take himself too seriously, but the days of rebelling by wearing feather boas, the 4 foot tall shoes from the rock opera “Tommy” and his collection of over the top eye glasses were behind him.
The evening was spent doing what he does best, entertaining an audience supported by his “Million Dollar Piano”, created especially for him by Yamaha that took nearly 4 years to complete and features more than 68 LED video screens. It is the perfect accompaniment to his music, displaying imagery to complement his greatest hits, along with a production that was conceptualized and created by Mark Fisher. Fisher designed John’s Medusa Tour in 1999 as well as shows and portable architecture for a variety of other entertainers such as “The Wall” for Pink Floyd and “Steel Wheels” for the Rolling Stones. As soon as Fisher described his basic vision for the production, using no drawings or visual conceptualizations, John was on board. He chose not to see any visual rendering of the production. His desire was to walk on stage 48 hours before opening night and be surprised. Fisher knew he had fulfilled his goal of “creating an on-stage world that represents my image of him as an artist” and “the creation of an over the top world that represented Elton as I saw him, dancing on the knife edge that separates high art from low camp” when, upon seeing the finished product, John wept tears of joy.
Along with the animated back drops, live action clips and photographs to accompany his songs, symbolism’s and personal details abound in aspects of the design and form including piano rolls constantly changing colors, carved images of his two cocker spaniel canine companions and a handful of cupids peering at the audience through their Elton John-style eyeglasses. Each detail was meticulously created to meld perfectly with the music. Nineteen films were used to create a massive montage of archival elements, music photographs, interviews videos, costumes and pieces of song lyrics to tell the story of the milestones and achievements of Elton’s life. The spectacle of the show was amazing, but all that was really needed for this evening to be a memorable night was a piano and a microphone to celebrate the music of Elton John.
You can’t celebrate the music of Elton John without also celebrating the lyrics of Bernie Taupin, without whom, according to John, there would be no Elton John. His writing partner for over 48 years, Taupin provided the lyrics for dozens of John’s hit songs and, in fact, every song performed during this special evening, except one was written by the duo. John confessed that the two have never been in the same room when composing a song. Without exception, Taupin’s poetic lyrics are delivered to John and, from another room, inspiration generally occurs rapidly and he adds his musical interpretation.
We were treated to a glimpse into the “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” partnership and friendship when, before performing the song, he revealed the story surrounding the first milestone of their writing partnership which came while the two were living in the garage apartment of Elton’s parents in London. Eighteen year old Bernie brought to Elton, beautiful and innocent lyrics for his musical input. John noted that nerves were present as a he felt a deep responsibility to do justice to the poetic words with his music. He left the room and twenty minutes later, “Your Song” was born. Although he has performed this song hundreds of times, the accompanying emotion was felt as deep as ever by the audience. Tears came to my eyes with the added memory of this song being performed on my wedding day, 35 years earlier.
Additional Elton John classics were included. “Philadelphia Freedom” was prefaced with a verbal homage to his love of Americans and the acceptance and loyalty he has felt from them over the years, noting that fame and acceptance came to him in America before his own country. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” was remembered as the song he chose to honor New Yorkers following 9/11 at a benefit for first responders and “Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)” was a memorial to his friend John Lennon, following his death. Other Elton John classics, “Rocket Man”, “Levon”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Better Off Dead”, “Indian Sunset”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “I’m Still Standing”, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” and “Crocodile Rock” elicited similar stories, forever bonding us to these songs and this magical evening.
The night was winding down. Then, just as we were beginning to lament the inevitable end to an amazing evening, we were shocked, amazed, delighted and (add any other positive adjective imaginable here) when those of us in the first 5 rows were invited on-stage… yes, I said on-stage to circle around the million dollar piano while Elton rocked “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)”. We were encouraged to sing, dance with the band and take pictures of this surreal experience. He even managed to play one-handed piano so he could shake our hands.
Before it had time to really sink in, we were escorted back to our seats; Elton had completed his encore, “Circle of Life” and wished us good-night, thus searing this musical experience into our memories and psyche, bonding us to the music of Elton John in a very personal way.
Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano at The Colosseum is running through April 14th and returns in October 2015. You can purchase tickets HERE!
Sir Elton John Set-List:
1. The Bitch is Back
2. Bennie and the Jets
3. Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be A Long, Long Time)
5. Tiny Dancer
6. Your Song
7. Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
8. Better Off Dead
9. Indian Sunset
10. Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)
11. Good-bye Yellow Brick Road
12. I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
13. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me
14. Philadelphia Freedom
15. I’m Still Standing
16. Crocodile Rock
17. Saturday Night’s (Alright for Fighting)
18. Circle of Life
Elton John Website
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Article and Photos by: Berda Taylor