A review of the concert at the Royal Albert Hall
As the headline is already giving away, I went to the Royal Albert Hall yesterday and attended a concert of the London Symphony Orchestra performing The Music of Bond. Yes, Mr. James Bond, of course.
But before I go into detail about the concert itself, let’s take a quick look at the location. The Royal Albert Hall is located near Kensington Gardens, where William and Kate occasionally reside at Kensington Palace, and opposite the beautiful Albert Memorial. Most of you will probably know that since its construction in the 19th century, the Royal Albert Hall has always been one of the most beautiful and popular concert venues in Europe. In the UK it is still considered to be an honour for a musician to be allowed to play a concert there.
Behind the hall, you’ll find the Royal Academy of Music hiding from view. Until today, the elite university remains one of the most famous and high ranked institutions for musical studies in the world. Sir Elton John and Annie Lennox are only two examples of the many talents who have graduated here.
We arrived at around 6 p.m – far too early for a concert starting at 7.30 p.m., but you never know with public transport in London. And the way from the underground to the venue is rather long for London standards, so it was rather good that we were so early.
At 7.15 p.m., the stewards were ordered to open the doors to the interior venue and we made our way to out seats at the Rausing Circle. The view, I must say, was rather spectacular:
Pictures can’t do justice to the fantastic atmosphere and the unique location. When the orchestra members took their seats, the lights faded to black, and the first few notes of the James Bond theme song echoed through the hall – it was such a breathtaking moment that I have trouble describing it. The only comparison coming to my mind was the 2015 theatre performance of Hamlet at the Barbican here in London. When the lights went out, the curtain rose, and your eyes set on the first scene, you just hold your breath in anticipation and excitement. And last night was a similar outstanding experience.
Needless to say, the orchestra’s performance was incredible. There was little to no difference between the movie soundtrack and the live experience. I particularly enjoyed the short explanation of the anatomy of a Bond song by the conductor. He described the “perfect Bond theme song” as a landscape painting with different layers. You start with the background, celli and violoncelli, and then continue to add more and more layers until you end with the foreground, the melody.
Fun fact: Did you know that the guitarist, who played the famous Bond motive in the first ever film, earned a salary of £6?
The host of the evening was Bond girl Fiona Fullerton, who starred in A View to a Kill (1985) alongside Roger Moore. She narrated the musical journey through decades of James Bond music and told funny anecdotes from the set when she was shooting A View to a Kill. She and the orchestra were joined by two amazing vocalists, Simon Bowman and Alison Jiear, who were so amazing that I had goosebumps – several times. Among other songs, they performed Skyfall and Writing’s on the Wall and there truly are no words to describe their incredible voices. Especially Mr. Bowman’s interpretation of Writing’s on the Wall had me on the edge of my seat even though I don’t like the original song. Somehow, he managed to take our breath away and Mrs. Jiear’s version of Skyfall was so true to the original that if one closed one’s eyes, one was easily fooled into thinking that it was Adele and not someone else singing the song.
I wouldn’t call myself a Bond fan and I have never watched a 007-film other than those starring Daniel Craig in the title role. That might be shocking to some, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. The music, however, is truly a masterpiece and after last night’s concert, I think that especially the older songs don’t receive the recognition they undoubtedly deserve. This night has opened my eyes to a music genre of its own, and it managed to change my view on James Bond in some ways – I’d highly recommend this concert to anyone, no matter if they are just a casual viewer or a die-hard Bond fan. The combination of a wonderful venue, fantastic vocalists, and interesting trivia turn this evening into a perfect night out.