IMG 6104Full disclosure: I LOVE ELTON JOHN!!! Elton is my hero! I grew up with his music, he’s had a profound influence on my life and I’m in complete awe of his achievements, both musical and philanthropic. I own pieces of his clothing and a pair of his 1970‘s platform shoes! He could sit onstage at the Colosseum and read the phone book, and I’d still be a happy guy! If you’re an Elton John fan, if you’ve ever bought an Elton John album, even if you’re only just remotely familiar with the name Elton John, GO SEE THIS SHOW!

IMG 2310 I was lucky enough to catch Elton’s last Vegas show, The Red Piano, six times. That particular show was a huge visual extravaganza, featuring giant inflatable set pieces, enormous neon signs descending from above the stage, spelling out E - L - T - O - N, and spectacular short films by the show’s director David LaChappelle to back up many of Elton’s hit songs.

 The Million Dollar Piano, however, is more of a pure music concert. It does not, however, lack visual impact. This IS Vegas, after all! The set seems to me to be almost a tribute to Elton’s late friend, Gianni Versace: huge golden rococo arches, sunbursts, and swirls, into which are incorporated various cherubs (all wearing pink spectacles, of course) and even Elton’s two dogs. Once the show begins, though, it’s all about the MUSIC!! Elton arrives onstage, simply, but FABULOUSLY, sits down behind his keyboard and proceeds to bombard you with hit after hit - the first six songs alone are all iconic Elton John hits!

 IMG 2315Philadelphia Freedom, The Bitch Is Back, Rocket Man, I’m Still Standing, Your Song, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me; almost all the hits you’d want from this legendary performer are here, along with a few songs you might not know - I was thrilled to hear two of my personal favorites; Better Off Dead, from Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, and Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, from Honky Chateau. One surprising piece for me, was Indian Sunset; a six and a half minute song off the Madman Across The Water album, about the plight of Native Americans.

 IMG 2306Elton’s band, featuring long-time band mates Nigel Olsson on drums and Davey Johnstone on guitar, along with Bob Birch on bass, John Mahon on percussion and Kim Bullard on keyboards are reliably tight. For this show, they’ve added two Croatian cellists; Stepjan Hauser and Luka Sulic who not only sound great, but are adorable and amusing as they add what I call “cello-ography” - they rock, sway and dance in time to the music while they play, at times using one foot to push themselves around in circles, never leaving their stools. There are also four fantastic divas on backing vocals, including Rose Stone, one of the founding members of Sly and the Family Stone, along with Jean Whiterspoon, Tata Vega and Lisa Stone. They’re all amazing, energetic singers and at times I found myself paying a little more attention to them than to Elton.

 Still, Elton is the focus of the evening and in this show, you’ll only see two “special effects” - the ever changing Million Dollar Piano itself, which is fronted with 68 LED screens, onto which can be projected different patterns, backgrounds or bits of video which complement the projections on the huge video screen behind the stage.

 IMG 2318The other special effect is the spectacular guest percussionist Ray Cooper. Cooper has played with Elton, on and off, for years and he is practically a show unto himself. He appears on a huge riser at the back of the stage, which is filled with tympani, wood blocks, drums, cymbals, wind chimes and even a xylophone. Just watching what he can do with a simple tambourine is sheer magic! Indian Sunset, the song I mentioned before, is staged as a showcase for Elton and Ray Cooper alone, and it’s mesmerizing.

 The Million Dollar Piano is still less than 6 months into its run, and I’ve already seen the show twice. I have to admit, I was quite lucky the first time I caught it. I hadn’t bought a ticket in advance. I simply went to the box office the night before the performance and asked if they had a single seat available in a good location. I was told they had a good seat and a GREAT seat. I asked where the great seat was located and it turned out to be second row, dead center! Needless to say, I took that one! Now, one of the things I do miss about The Red Piano show is the built-in moment where audience members from the first few rows are allowed to come onstage, dance, and gather round the piano during the closing number; Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting. I was able to do that twice!

For this show, however the audience is kept away from the stage by a series of velvet ropes. Still, at the end of the show, during the bows, I approached the stage and stuck out my hand which Elton high-fived for me. Definitely cool! I find it kind of wonderful that my favorite musician has helped create some of my favorite Vegas memories!

 So...here’s my advice to you...again: See this show! The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace is incredibly well designed, so no matter where you sit, I can almost guarantee you’ll enjoy the show. I’ve had seats in Front Orchestra, Rear Orchestra and First Mezzanine, and even if you’re toward the back of the auditorium, you still feel awfully close to the stage - at least that was MY experience. I also have a close friend who saw The Red Piano from the Third Mezzanine and told me the view was perfect. The sound system in the Colosseum is awesome and no matter how loud Elton and the band may get, you won’t leave the theater feeling deafened.

 What you will feel, is lucky. Lucky to have been in the presence of a music icon like Elton John. He clearly loves what he does, and what he does is put on a hell of a show. And it feels like it’s all just for you!

* A sad note to add here: In August of 2012, Elton’s bassist, Bob Birch was found dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound. I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to Bob’s family, Elton, and to the entire family that is the Elton John band. Every time I saw Bob playing with the band, he wore a slightly wicked smile, as if he and the other musicians were sharing a silent joke together. I’ll remember that along with the music.