I once made the mistake of saying to a group of friends who consider themselves “music aficionados” that I didn’t think Sir Elton John was a very good vocalist. After they handed me my hat, I went on to explain that my observation had absolutely nothing to do with the man’s obvious abilities as a musician or as a lyricist; it’s just that I thought vocally the man was relatively limited in range, and I just didn’t think what I perceived as the timber of his voice added much to any particular song I’d heard him perform.
What can I say? I was young. Naïve. Etc.
Anyway, they proceeded to recommend other tunes for me to explore – ones not from his pop playlist catalogue directly – and they proved me wrong. It would seem that, like many performers do, Elton (and his longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin) has a talent for producing not only radio-friendly tracks but also an understanding of just how those accompanying vocals must be produced for the same environment.
Still, Sir Elton is largely known for those songs that found Top 40 fame, and there’s no better way to explore them and his exceptionally showmanship in the latest DVD release, ELTON JOHN: THE MILLION DOLLAR PIANO. From start-to-finish, the man clearly grasps the genius of his setting, and he more than aptly demonstrates why fans come to see him again and again over the years.
The show’s track lists essentially is a collection of his greatest hits, performed one after another without a lot of interlude … but when he does speak to the audience, Elton does so in a way that demonstrates the fondness and affection for those who’ve listened and still do today. He even takes a time-out to recognize precisely how much his fans have meant to him over the years. It’s clear that, as a performer, he’s immeasurably cognizant of what the audience expects of him, and he sets out to achieve a measure of ‘thanks’ by doing what he does best: play his music.
Caesar’s Palace is a terrific venue, and Elton has made the best of it. It’s a terrific stage – one accommodating a large back-up band and a small chorus of singers – as well as the usual pomp and circumstance. There’s a series of lighting and video effects that play nearly continuously; and, if there’s any distraction, it could be that – for creative reasons – director Chris Gero felt the need to keep shifting between what seems like a billion different camera angles. While it’s great that he tried to get everything in, there is something to be said for nuance, and I would’ve appreciated a few sequences of showing the piano man do what he does from one, two, or three specific perspectives.
But there’s no denying Elton’s love for the experience. During his rendition of one of his biggest hits (“Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)”), he even insists on pulling members of the audience up onto the stage to join him in the mix.
For those of you who don’t know it, Elton John has been an entertainer for over five decades. He’s likely forgotten more secrets to performing than most musicians ever learn. To see him is to see a living legend at work. And THE MILLION DOLLAR PIANO is a must for music fans everywhere.
ELTON JOHN: THE MILLION DOLLAR PIANO (2013) is produced by Rocket Music Entertainment Group. DVD distribution is being handled by Eagle Rock Entertainment. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a concert performance taped from his “The Million Dollar Piano” concert performed at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. As for the technical specifications? Wow! Director/producer Chris Gero went to great lengths to capture the look, presence, and mood of the venue (having been there, I think it’s one of the best places I’ve had the good fortune to see). Lastly, the disc boasts a 20+ minute documentary on the challenges of capturing a live performance, as well as another show (from Kiev, a four-set performance) captured live.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. So far as this music reviewer is concerned, Elton John remains one of the consummate showmen of his generation (and quite possibly ANY generation). As any viewer can see on THE MILLION DOLLAR PIANO, Elton loves playing. He loves the music. He loves the concert experience. He loves his fans. He loves everything about being an entertainer, and, unlike so many others in the business today, he knows how to deliver a million dollar performance.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Eagle Rock Entertainment, Ltd. provided me with a DVD copy of ELTON JOHN: THE MILLION DOLLAR PIANO by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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