Elton John, 02 Arena, London

Extravagant Elton brings Vegas to London

Perhaps the most pressing problem facing a natural showman like Elton John is how to age gracefully, when one's style and instincts are to behave outrageously. There's the Mick Jagger method, although this stretches the notion of "graceful" to breaking point and entails a devotion to exercise and a natural propensity to litheness, both of which, one suspects, are hardly highest on Sir Elton John's "must-do" list. Another is to surround oneself with well-drilled, ripped dancers, as Madonna does – though one might look flabby by comparison.

It's no surprise, then, to find Elton adopting a more painless method for the Red Piano, the Las Vegas extravaganza he has brought to London's O2 Arena, which basically consists of handing over responsibility to celebrity director/photographer David LaChapelle, then plonking oneself in the middle with a piano.

The show features two main components: a broad, shiny black stage with a serious rake tilting towards the audience, with the red piano perched atop a star-shaped pedestal; and a huge screen backdrop showing LaChapelle's visual realisations of the songs. What this means is that, once Elton has sat down and launched into "Bennie and the Jets", one's attention is almost monopolised by the projections, many of which refer to Elton's Seventies heyday. For "Philadelphia Freedom", there is an animated pop-art collage in which a younger Elton shares space with Charles Atlas, burlesque dancers and period graphic flourishes; for "Daniel", a more sober montage of monochrome Vietnam footage; while in the most protracted clip, for "Rocket Man", another young Elton – now played by Justin Timberlake – makes his way from dressing room to stage, through crowds of period-costumed well-wishers and autograph-hunters.

While the films impose time restrictions on the performance, the extended "Rocket Man" one allows for some degree of extemporisation, including an ending that features a sparkling piano solo in bluesy New Orleans style. (It is also noticeable that, vocally, Elton no longer attempts to hit the highest notes, but compensates with a more soulful delivery.)

It's the most overtly musical moment of a show that prizes spectacle over sound, often pushing the boundaries of taste in characteristically mischievous manner. At other times, we're treated to giant inflatable roses, hot-dogs, ice creams, and a cheeky, ooer-missus cherries-and-banana combo, while in the film for "Someone Saved My Life Tonight", a platform-soled younger Elton sticks his head in a gas oven and ascends to a peculiar heaven featuring a semi-naked afro-tressed girl in an electric chair, a purple teddy bear dancing on skates, and enough white powder to host the Winter Olympics. What can it all mean?

Don't bother asking Elton: almost four decades on, he's still trying to figure out what the lyrics to "Take Me to the Pilot" are all about, as he confides during one of the chatty intros with which the show is punctuated, the cattiest of which comes when he thanks the crowd for coming out to see him on such a rainy night, and in the face of such tempting televisual alternatives. "Tonight's the final of X-Factor, and there's Strictly Come Dancing too," he observes. "And you know what? I'd rather have my cock bitten off by an Alsatian than watch either."

How ironic then that, as we're all leaving the Dome following the set-closing "Your Song", the venue's PA repeatedly announces that for Elton's New Year's Eve show, he will be supported by "X Factor winner Alexandra Burke." Somewhere backstage a large dog was hunting for its dinner.

Touring to 31 December ( www.eltonjohn.com)

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before