One of the most compelling performances at this year’s emotionally charged Academy of Country Music Awards—held earlier this month at MGM Grand, the country world’s return to Vegas after the festival tragedy of October 1—was an Elton John cover. Award-winning Alabama group Little Big Town, known for its four-part harmonies, performed a cinematic version of “Rocket Man” led by Jimi Westbrook, while a multicolored light show painted an outer space scene above the packed crowd at the Grand Garden Arena. The genre’s biggest artists sang their much newer songs throughout the show but somehow “Rocket Man” resonated in an entirely different way.
Little Big Town’s cover is featured as part of two new Elton John tribute albums. Restoration showcases country stars like Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Chris Stapleton, while Revamp includes pop, rock and R&B artists like Mary J. Blige, Coldplay, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and The Killers. Ed Sheeran does “Candle in the Wind” and Q-Tip and Demi Lovato team for “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
These sets could easily have been released 20 years ago performed by the artists of that era, and they could be revamped and restored all over again 20 years from now. The music of John and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin is nothing if not timeless, but today there’s a new sense of urgency. The legend also known as Reginald Kenneth Dwight, 71, announced in January an epic final three-year world tour dubbed Farewell Yellow Brick Road. “I plan to bring the passion and creativity that has entertained my fans for decades to my final tour,” he said during the announcement. “After the tour finishes, I’m very much looking forward to closing off that chapter of my life by saying farewell to life on the road. I need to dedicate more time to raising my children.”
The tour is slated to finish in North America in 2021, and John is expected to play Las Vegas during that ultimate finale, but his epic Caesars Palace headlining residency, The Million Dollar Piano, will play for the last time on May 17.
The Colosseum was built for Celine Dion, who paved the way for the modern Strip residency production, but with his incredible legacy and unending canon of hits, Elton built upon that foundation. His first Vegas show, The Red Piano—conceptualized by photographer and artist David LaChapelle—ran 243 times from 2004 to 2009. The Million Dollar Piano, a tightly packaged, less abstract show featuring hits and Elton’s favorites, opened in September 2011.
When he’s done at the Colosseum, he will have performed 450 shows in front of more than 1.8 million fans in Las Vegas, easily ranking among the most popular acts in the history of the Strip.
On Revamp, Las Vegas band The Killers covers “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” one of Elton’s all-time favorites. He famously performed it at Madison Square Garden on October 20, 2001 as a tribute to 9/11 victims and emergency responders, and he referenced that performance and song last year during his first Vegas show after October 1.
“I wasn’t familiar with ‘Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters’ … until I saw The Million Dollar Piano,” Killers frontman Brandon Flowers said during Revamp’s release. “I saw him play it live, and it knocked me over that there was this song out there that I didn’t know about that would touch me and be so powerful. I sat there with tears in my eyes in the audience going, ‘What is this song?’”
ELTON JOHN: THE MILLION DOLLAR PIANO April 28-29, May 1-2, 4-6, 8-9, 11-12 & 15-17, 7:30 p.m., $95-$750. The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, 866-227-5938.