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The Bitch is Back!
For the past decade or so, pop superstar Elton John has been in residence at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Several years ago, his show was called The Red Piano, for the spiffy red Yamaha piano that he used. For the past few years, the show has been ?The Million Dollar Piano?, again, for the spiffy Yamaha piano. This concert, recorded in February 2012, has a solid playlist…
01) The Bitch is Back
If you take the lavish stage shows for which Elton John has been famous and add to that the levels of excess usually associated with Las Vegas. Well, as you might expect, labeling the production "over the top" is woefully inadequate. Actually, it's both over the top and restrained—the gift of giant LED displays is that just about anything can be displayed with (relatively) minimal fuss, so that you can move from the sublime to the psychotic in a heartbeat. Which the show does repeatedly.
While the bulk of the concert is with the full band, there are a few pieces that feature Sir Elton more or less solo, as well as a couple of duets with longtime percussionist Ray Cooper. The performances are good, but John tends to ham things up just a bit, goosing the audience for as much applause as he can possibly get. He spends quite a bit of time discussing the titular piano. Now, if you tell me that a piano cost a million bucks, I'm looking for a piano that walks itself onto center stage, writes its own concerto, conducts the orchestra, and then closes some security bugs in Windows 8. What we get is a piano with a wrap-around LED display and a glass/plexiglass top. It doesn't help that the piano's display is constantly overwhelmed by the show's non-stop sensory overload.
I'm sure the price tag is justified in other ways, but they are not readily apparent (the making of featurette doesn't really add much). Nor does the audio mix go out of its way to spotlight the piano—yes, Elton John is playing it at a ridiculously high level, but he does that with ANY piano he plays. There are some undeniably great moments in the show, For instance, during "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," the people in the first row get to come up on stage and get their groove on right next to Elton—naturally, everyone immediately pulls their cell phones to get selfies and/or film Elton up close and personal. But all the staging in the world can't obscure certain truths, one of which is that while Sir Elton's voice is stronger than ever in the lower registers, it's been some time since he's been able to hit those higher notes. Unfortunately, some weak vocal arranging in several songs, most notably "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," calls attention to the problem instead of obscuring it.
While the AVC-encoded 1.8:1/1080i HD video has a couple of minor combing artifacts, this remains an Eagle Rock disc, which means that the Las Vegas excess, whether visual or sonic, is captured as perfectly as possible. The picture is quite stunning in several sequences; hell, you can see specks of dust on top of the piano. The one extra is a brief making of featurette that focuses on the piano as well as the show. While it's always fun to look behind the scenes, there's little in the way of depth here. There are also some songs from a 2012 concert in Kiev; away from the eternal bling of Vegas, the performances are notably better. All the extras are in HD as well, which is a nice touch.
Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano (Blu-ray) is an enjoyable concert disc, but reinforces my utter lack of desire to see a Vegas show.
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