Continuing the recent trend of new arrivals, the DVD release of the Million Dollar Piano show is next to be scrutinised. What delights do we get this time...on this review I'm not going to do any close scrutiny of the show itself. I did that on the review of the cinema release last March. My opinion of it hasn't changed since then. What I'll focus on is the bonus material and any bits of the main feature that became clearer in focus upon repeated viewings.
The DVD including bonus features runs to 155 minutes. A fairly long running time considering it's a single disc. A couple of striking things emerge from watching the DVD as opposed to the cinema release. The sound for starters is a vast improvement. It had to be, anything less would have been mono. It's sharper with a greater punch, mixed far better and the 5.1 surround configuration (on which I watched it at home) shows us what was sadly lacking in the picture house. I would have thought at the very least they've had that basic Dolby surround for the theatrical version. It's absence lessened the experience of what it should and could have been. Hopefully in the future that anomaly will be corrected for similar films.
The picture mix however is still comical. I watched the DVD about half a dozen times over the weekend and I'm now slightly confused as to what they were trying to achieve. During every song bar one, more on it later, the picture mashup suggests more than one show was filmed. Probably two at least, maybe more. The best evidence of that is Elton's hair switches back and forth from tousled fringe to a sharply combed down position. This happens during the space of a single line in a song. Yet the audio is seamlessly mixed. Assuming of course they mixed the corresponding audio and picture. I think they may have used a single audio version and remixed the pictures from multiple shows. Whatever the reason it's a bizarre tread running the length of the performance. Except during Saturday Night's Alright. It's taken from one performance, the presence of the crowd on stage meant it would be impossible to recut. Makes you wonder why they did it for the rest of the show if they could do it for that one song. Apart from that oddity, it doesn't detract from the performance.
Now on to the bonus material. The making of segment has been available already on a version of The Diving Board released in the US last year. It's very short, less than 25 minutes, but still delves behind the scenes and into the machine that is Blossom. The clips of the workshop are very interesting, the fabrication part is truly a work of delicacy and precision. Yet that fine art has to have ruggedness and comfort. That sense of comfort never more clearly evident than manicured keys. That's right, the piano keys are individually filed and shaped to receive Elton's fingers with greater comfort. There's plenty of input from the main protagonists, including the late Mark Fisher whose concept was realised in all it's glory. The set design being a classy collision of regal pomp and religious glory. The development from the piano upwards and outwards to complete the full spectacle is detailed in depth by various facilitators.
The rest of the bonus material is a bit of a disc filler I think. The Kiev show was widely available on the unofficial market as soon it was broadcast in June 2012. EJ.com released it officially through the Rocket Club recently. Yet we get 4 tracks from it, making it two versions of Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me on the disc. Anybody familiar with this period on the Elton timeline will know poor old Bob Birch was suffering. No need to elaborate here on all that. But to see him sitting there when he was clearly under stresses we can't imagine was sad and almost distressing. It's a curious show to have chosen from to tack on a few extra tracks. The main feature is a glorious tribute to him when he was still in his groove. You could see he was enjoying the Vegas show, the Kiev one not so much. Same goes for this particular viewer for both shows.
Overall it's an excellent showing off of the show in Vegas. It's a pity that Hey Ahab or even Empty Garden couldn't have been included but as I intimated earlier events meant that anything filmed after summer 2012 would have been impossible to tie in with the existing footage. The better sound mix really makes the home viewing experience a far more satisfying moment. It's a terrific performance overall...thankfully what stays in Vegas doesn't always stay under wraps!!
'Silent Movies, Talking Pictures'
'Silent Movies, Talking Pictures'