DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Elton John – The Red Piano, Live From Las Vegas, Blu-ray (2008/2009)

His voice is past its prime and the disc also has some technical problems.

Published on June 20, 2009

Elton John – The Red Piano, Live From Las Vegas, Blu-ray (2008/2009)

Elton John – The Red Piano, Live From Las Vegas, Blu-ray (2008/2009)

Studio: Universal B0012852-59

Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 color, 1080i HD

Audio: English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, PCM Stereo

Extras: Documentary, The David LaChapelle Films
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese
Feature Length: 153 minutes

Rating: **

Davey Johnstone says at one point in the interview track that artists usually come to Vegas when they’re ready to die, but that he found the entire Vegas experience reinvigorating. After having watched this poor Blu-ray disc from Universal, I’ve reached nearly the same conclusion: Elton John needs to die – at least as a live performer. Living in the metro Atlanta Georgia, area, where Elton now makes his home, I’ve always offered Elton my emotional support. Even though artistically, I’ve also felt that his best days have passed him, and his recent work (last ten to fifteen years or so) just hasn’t measured up to the classic albums he and Bernie Taupin collaborated on throughout the seventies and into the eighties. He’s been a great citizen of our city, and has offered his support to countless good causes around town. But his work, artistically, has been dead to me for well more than a decade, and this lackluster offering only reinforces my personal feelings. Even on his classic songs, Elton’s voice no longer has any of the warmth or beauty of tone that made his best work so enjoyable. His voice now seems gruff and forced – other artists past their prime (Billie Holiday comes to mind) endured the ravages of time, and yet managed to still imbue their vocal delivery with enough raw emotion to make listening to them continually compelling. Unfortunately, I just don’t hear any of that going on here; the entire experience was almost downright painful to endure.  

From a technical standpoint, this Blu-ray disc is a mixed bag. The image quality is abysmal, looking as grainy and soft as a bad VHS copy. Colors seemed way oversaturated, and the image contrast was quite poor, with poor available detail. Even though this lavish Vegas production offered the foundation for what could have been a real spectacle, the Blu-ray just doesn’t deliver – it was hard to listen to (artistically), and just as unfulfilling to watch. The sound quality, on the other hand was really good, and the DTS HD Master Audio track offered a really dynamic and enveloping surround experience – if only Elton’s voice wasn’t so hard to listen to!

The bonus features include a documentary about the making of the production which was a pretty interesting watch, and there’s a collection of the David LaChapelle films that serve as the large backdrop for the lavish sets. You can watch the films independently, or you can set your player to A-B between the live performance and the films. While I found them quite interesting, I honestly didn’t see this as much of a feature I’d take repeat advantage of, especially in light of my disdain for the balance of the program. [I thought the films were most interesting in themselves – better than what was onstage – featuring lots of 60s psychedelic imagery and one with multiple pole dancers for The Bitch Is Back…Ed.]

Going into this disc, I really wanted to like it – unfortunately, my love for Elton’s classic work makes this pale shadow of his art more than I could endure. For rabidly diehard fans only.

TrackList:  Bennie And The Jets; Philadelphia Freedom; Believe; Daniel; Rocket Man; Answer In The Sky; Tiny Dancer; Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me; Candle In The Wind; Pinball Wizard; The Bitch Is Back; I’m Still Standing; Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting; Your Song.

 – Tom Gibbs

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