By Cynthia Johnston
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Singer Elton John opened his new Las Vegas act at Caesars Palace on Wednesday, tickling the ivories on his new "million dollar piano" nicknamed Blossom that lit up to reflect the mood of each song.
"The Million Dollar Piano" show marks the beginning John's three-year residency at Caesar's theater, The Colosseum, and Wednesday's performance was the first of 16 shows scheduled through October. A second series begins in February.
Long-known for his flamboyant costumes, John walked onto a Roman-inspired golden stage in a glittering silver cape, removed to reveal a glimmering black coat and golden shoes before sitting down to play on a custom piano covered with more than 68 LED screens.
"It's great to be back here at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace," he told the crowd, joking that in the 2-1/2 years since he last performed on the stage, both he and singer Celine Dion who also played there had children. "Miracles happen here, I tell you."
He played favorites including "Your Song," "Rocket Man," "Bennie and The Jets" and "Circle of Life" to a welcoming crowd that responded with standing ovations to nearly every song.
"It was just a warm feeling. You feel him, his presence," said audience member Robert Kang, of Washington D.C.
John, who said the idea for the show was born just four months ago, was accompanied by band members Davey Johnstone on guitar, Bob Birch on bass, John Mahon on percussion, Nigel Olsson on drums with a special appearance by percussionist Ray Cooper.
But major star of the show -- other than John -- was his piano, which he named Blossom after jazz singer Blossom Dearie, that lit up with color and imagery to reflect the mood of each song, showing glimmering blue dots for a rendition of "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues".
John joked that the piano, which weighs nearly 3,200 pounds and was close to four years in the making, was so capable it even contained an aquarium as the piano lit up with a seascape.
"I think Blossom is pretty good, don't you?" he said.
The 64-year-old British singer was a child piano prodigy who rose from a part-time pub player to become one of the most successful recording artists of all time. He previously completed a 5-year residency at the Colosseum in 2009 with "The Red Piano", which ran for 241 shows.
His spokesman said last week that John was in talks to make a film about his life, responding to media reports about a planned biopic called "Rocketman". The singer/songwriter has sold an estimated 250 million records and won an Oscar and several Grammys.
Newspapers and websites have reported that "Rocketman" would be produced by John's partner David Furnish and Steve Hamilton Shaw and executive produced by the singer himself.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)