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'The Million Dollar Piano' review: Keys to Elton John's show

Elton John performs at Gran Parque Central stadium

Elton John performs at Gran Parque Central stadium in Montevideo on March 4, 2013. Credit: Getty Images / Pablo Porciuncula

It's always been hard to figure out what Elton John is thinking.

Unpredictability is part of the rock and roll legend's charm -- along with his warm, bluesy voice and piano playing. Maybe that is what's missing from "The Million Dollar Piano," his show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas that was captured for a special screening in movie theaters around the world Tuesday and March 26.

The nearly two-hour concert from John -- backed by an excellent band that includes longtime members Nigel Olsson, guitarist Davey Johnstone and Bob Birch on bass, as well as 2 Cellos, the young Croatian duo, who, John says, "lowers the average age of the band by 30 years" -- is filled with crowd-pleasing greatest hits, from opener "The Bitch Is Back" to the encore "Circle of Life."

Though he jokes that his piano includes a washer and dryer "just in case something accidental happens at my age," John is generally in fine voice throughout the show, filmed shortly before his 65th birthday in 2012. While it's slightly disappointing to hear him avoid the high notes of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" to stay within his range, he more than makes up for it with the extra-bluesy version of "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues." The bit of extended improv at the end of the song, which shows off his lower register, only displays what the film is missing in parts.

Instead, we get more of a description of John's "co-star," the "Million Dollar Piano" from the title. Built specifically for John by Yamaha and nicknamed Blossom, it includes video screens, LED lights and even an aquarium filled with fish in case John gets bored while playing it.

"I'll be having sex with it later," John jokes after the lengthy description of the 3,200-pound piano. It's the kind of off-the-cuff remark that serves as a reminder of the not-so-distant past, when John would never relinquish the spotlight, especially not to a piano -- whether it flashed dollar signs or not.

PLOT A look at Elton John's "Million Dollar Piano" Las Vegas show. Unrated.

CAST Elton John


INFO 7 p.m. Tuesday and March 26; $15,

BOTTOM LINE A new twist to Elton John's classic show.

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