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October 25, 2014

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VegasBeat — Timothy McDarrah: Elton sharp in Caesars debut

In May 1974, Jon Landau wrote in Boston's Real Paper what has become one of the most famous lines in rock criticism: "I saw the rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen."

On the stage at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on Friday night, VegasBeat and about 4,000 others -- including personalities such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas, Christina Aguilera, Barbara Walters, Jeffery Katzenberg, Sharon Osbourne and, of course, Robin Leach -- saw what might well be the future of Las Vegas entertainment.

Its names are Elton John and David LaChappelle.

"That was hands down the most amazing show I have ever seen," 2004 Grammy winner Aguilera told VegasBeat. "David LaChappelle is a genius. It actually made me cry a few times it was so beautiful."

"That was wonderful. I have seen a lot of shows over the years and I have never seen anything like that," broadcast news legend Barbara Walters told us after the performance.

Sir Elton owned the crowd after about two chords -- he opened his show with tried-and-true favorite "Bennie and the Jets." Above him, looking like a 50-foot tall neon ransom note with disparate typeface and bold colors, was the name, "E-L-T-O-N."

Words can hardly describe the scene, but it is safe to say that the visual effect was stunning -- and the dazzling trappings didn't let up for the show's entire 15-song, 90-minute length.

In song after song, LaChappelle artfully blended images of vintage Elton, 1970s women's lib protests, colorful design patterns, inflatable fruit and old neon signs with some of the most popular songs ever recorded.

"Just when you thought you had seen it all on that stage, they came at you with something else," Pamela Anderson said. Her video routine on a stripper pole was accompanied by the inflating of giant breasts above the stage.

As she slithered, John belted out "The Bitch is Back." From her fourth-row seat, Anderson stood up and raised a beer bottle toward Elton as she danced in her seat.

Despite that video bit, and some other flashes of on-screen nudity, the show can realistically be described as tasteful.

"I have seen Pamela Anderson with less clothes on at awards shows," joked Caesars Palace President Mark Juliano. He said he had reviewed all the video footage and that he was "comfortable" with the content. No reason not to be. As Juliano put it, "It is exemplary of the energy and excitement that is Las Vegas.

The only bit we had trouble with was an image of the Empire State building blasting off during the song "Philadelphia Freedom." The Empire State building is in New York, not Philadelphia.

Elton talked to the crowd about each song before he sang. His story of how "Candle in the Wind" became a huge hit years after it was released left many in the crowd sobbing -- the song became the biggest-selling pop single ever after he re-released it to mourn the death of his friend Princess Diana in 1997.

At times, even Elton seemed taken aback at the beauty and wonder of the video imagery. Before he launched into "Daniel," he nodded his head at the massive LED screen and said: "This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen."

Sir Elton also offered a shout out to the lady who usually plays the room. "I want to say thank you to Celine Dion, who is a very classy lady, for the kind messages she has sent me."

Other celebs making the red-carpet scene included Kelly and Jack Osbourne, who arrived with their mother and David Furnish, Elton's longtime companion; comic Kathy Griffin; Nia Vardalos ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding"); "The View" co-host Joy Behar; Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson; Caesars Entertainment President Wallace Barr and influential Los Angeles Times music writer Robert Hilburn.

Afterward, there was a fabulous bash in the hotel's Florentine Ballroom.

"Man, that was some show," said Washington Redskins quarterback Tim Hasselbeck. He is in town this week with his wife Elisabeth, a co-host of "The View" which is taping shows poolside at Caesars Palace starting Monday.

"I'll tell you one more thing -- you don't see anything like that back in Washington D.C."

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