Christmas is coming and the goose isn't the only one getting fat - with a UK Christmas tour, a new album and this four-disc DVD box set, Elton John's already hefty wallet will gain many more pounds. Dream Ticket celebrates his live career, but with all three concerts filmed in the past decade it avoids the fancy dresses and on-stage tomfoolery of Sir Elton's '70s and '80s shows to concentrate on his current ability as a live performer.
One Night Only was filmed at Madison Square Gardens, NYC in 2000 and takes a long peek at his greatest hits collection. Guest performances come from an eclectic bunch, including Mary J. Blige, who proves less than a suitable fit for Elton's ageing vocals on I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues. Anastasia's vocals resemble a dying duck on Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting, while Bryan Adams and Elton give a good reading of Sad Songs.
Yet it's New York's very own son, Billy Joel, who steals the show with a terrific take on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Oh, and Ronan Keating pops along to the bewilderment of the American audience. On the whole it's an uneven show thanks to a practically undesirable cast but Elton and his band are entertaining enough.
The second disc looks at Sir Elton's one-hour performance with the London Royal Academy Of Music Orchestra And Choir in 2002 at the Royal Opera House, London. It's an obviously grand, well dressed affair that sees Elton dust off a few lesser known numbers such as Carla Etude and Burn Down The Mission.
There are some excellent orchestral arrangements on the night and despite the rather posh venue, by the end of the concert the audience are up off their seats and dancing to Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting.
The third and final concert was filmed in July 2001 at the ancient Great Amphitheatre in Ephesus, Turkey. With just Elton and his piano, it's an austere show that includes the inevitable Your Song, the boogie-woogie feel of Honky Cat and the underrated Nikita. It's great to see Elton stripped of all the flamboyance and other absurdities of rock'n'roll to deliver a simple, intimate performance focused on some of popular music's finest creations.
As the concerts were filmed so close together, similarly with many other long-standing artists there are certain - in Elton's case, many - songs that are expected to be played. As a consequence, the set-lists inevitably overlap one another a bit too much but at least Elton has the patience to welcome back some obscurities from his back catalogue.
Elton In Four Decades is a previously unseen and irritating 'stop and start' documentary that is a bit of a bugger to navigate.
Each section represents the '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s respectively. Within each decade there are mini interviews about particular songs that have made an indelible impact on Elton's personal and/or professional life, followed by the particular song in question over a montage of live clips or the song's actual music video. It would have been less frustrating viewing if it was a simple full-length documentary.
Guest interviews include the director Cameron Crowe, the designer and director of Elton's current resident show in Las Vegas, David LaChapelle and Sir Tim Rice. Elton In Four Decades shows that for almost 40 years the bitch has never really gone away.
This exhaustive four-disc DVD set is an inevitable archive of Christmas treats for ardent fans, and unlike other music DVD box sets released this year it is valued at a reasonable price.