Blu-ray Review: Elton John - The Million Dollar Piano

A great memento of Elton John's latest Las Vegas show.
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The Las Vegas residency has long had its place in popular music lore. What was once seen as a home for "older" music, such as Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin, has since seen the likes of Elvis Presley, Prince, Motley Crue, Shania Twain and Cheap Trick, among others, take to the stage. Elton John is no stranger to Vegas either, having already performed more than 200 times as part of his Red Piano show. His latest show, The Million Dollar Piano, has been a hit with fans and critics alike and is the subject of a Blu-ray of the same name.

The Blu-ray was filmed during a series of shows at the Colosseum at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Done as part of John's partnership with Yamaha pianos, the piano used in the show is a sight to behold, worthy of its million-dollar moniker. The piano features a glass top and more than 60 LED video screens, which show an array of images from album covers to visual accompaniments to the songs. An engineering marvel, it took four years to build. The stage itself has a palace-like feel with John as king of the proceedings.

It's a testament to John's remarkable career that he can fill an over 2-hour set with nothing but hits and still not play them all. After taking the stage in a silver cape to the strains of "Also sprach Zarathustra," ala Presley, the band launches into a rocking rendition of "The Bitch Is Back." While John's voice may not be able to reach quite as high as it once could, he still delivers soulful performances throughout the night. This song is one of many that includes extended soloing by John and his crack band, which includes longtime members Nigel Olsson on drums, Davey Johnstone on guitar and the late Bob Birch on bass.  A bluesy "Bennie And The Jets" follows, with John offering a playful vocal.

John is joined by the duo, 2CELLOs, on stage for a number of songs, including a soulful "Levon." Ray Cooper adds percussion to the track and John, in a joking mood throughout, comments that he appreciates that the members of 2CELLOS are so young as it brings down the average age of the band. Before an emotional reading of "Your Song," John states that he would not have had the career he has had were it not for that number.

While the show is mostly hits, John does reserve a small portion of the set for some seldom-played cuts he felt deserved another look. The first is an intense "Better Off Dead" that finds him pushing his voice, while the latter, "Indian Sunset," features Cooper on percussion. The tracks may not be as well known, but they fit in well during the set all the same. The show closes with a strong version of "Circle Of Life," from The Lion King soundtrack, ending the show on a dramatic note.

The Blu-ray is presented in 1080i High Definition Widescreen 16:9 and is very well filmed. Audio options include DTS HD Master Audio and LPCM Stereo. Bonus features include Making The Million Dollar Piano and four songs from Kiev 2012, including an emotional "Sacrifice" and an energetic "Sad Songs (Say So Much)."

John's Million Dollar Piano shows no signs of slowing down. He has released a string of critically acclaimed albums over the last decade plus and continues to deliver great live shows backed by an incredible band. Elton John - The Million Dollar Piano is a fine live document of this great artist.