Elton John was in Australia on Oct. 1, getting ready for a delayed return to his headlining production “The Million Dollar Piano” at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace. The delay was due to a serious bacterial infection he unfortunately picked up while touring in South America, causing him to cancel a long string of spring shows in Las Vegas.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said of watching reports of the Route 91 shooting from another continent. “This is a town that has been so kind to me. I’ve been appearing here throughout my career but a lot since 2005 and it has a big place in my heart. Every time something happens like that, a killing like that, it stays in our hearts as musicians because we can’t do anything except play music to try and heal the wounds. But it does have a profound effect on us, and I just feel for this town.”
John and his band did everything they could to heal in his first show back Wednesday night, powering through hits from different eras and personal favorites that resonated with a near capacity Colosseum audience. After opening with “The Bitch is Back” and a powerfully percussive version of “Bennie and the Jets,” John slid into “Rocket Man” and added an extended musical coda, dazzling on the keys with some help from guitarist Davey Johnstone. Three songs in and the audience was in awe.
Another lengthy jam session trailed the next tune, “Levon” from 1971’s “Madman Across the Water” album. Then it was back to the classics with “Tiny Dancer” and “Your Song,” the latter of which previewed by a short explanation of how John and longtime writing partner Bernie Taupin have crafted their catalog. “We’ve been together 50 years and it’s quite amazing. We’ve never had an argument,” he said. “He gives me a lyric and from the word go, I’ve gone always gone into another room and written the melody. We’ve never been in the same room when we’ve written a song, which is probably why we’ve lasted 50 years.”
The 70-year-old legend’s voice became warmer and more pliable for “Your Song,” and he sounded better and better as the show went on. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” and “I’m Still Standing” came out to play, of course, but he also dug into “Indian Sunset” (with some dramatic drumming from another legend, percussionist Ray Cooper) and “Empty Garden,” a song written in 1982 for John’s dear friend John Lennon. Early, hard-charging hits “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” worked the audience into a climactic frenzy — and invited some onstage — before John re-emerged in a hot pink sequined jacket for the finale, “Circle of Life.”
Elton John couldn’t be happier to be back in town, and Las Vegas couldn’t be happier to have him. But take note: His residency wraps up in the spring, with final dates set for April 28 to May 19, 2018. This is not a show you want to miss.
“Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano” continues at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 13, 14, 15, 18 , 20, 21, 24, 25, 27 and 28, and Nov. 1, 3 and 4. The show returns again in February. For more information, visit thecolosseum.com.