With Presenter Margherita Taylor and Conductor Nick Davies
A review by Tanya Howard
For more than seven decades the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) have been at the forefront of music-making in the UK, and they have a hugely popular series of performances at the Royal Albert Hall. A concert hall on the northern edge of South Kensington, London, which has a capacity of up to 5,272 seats. The Hall is a registered charity held in trust for the nation and receives no public or government funding.
The latest Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performance at The Royal Albert Hall was Symphonic Pop, giving you a chance to hear some of the greatest pop hits and anthems from the world’s bestselling artists, but with the RPO’s signature symphonic twist. With songs from artists including Spice Girls, Elton John, Ed Sheeran, The Weather Girls, and a special tribute to the music of Stevie Wonder, how could I say no to such an intriguing and spectacular sounding show.
I have never been to the Royal Albert Hall before but I took my friend Abi who adores the venue as it holds some precious memories for her, and it’s nothing less than spectacular. I would advise that you make sure you are 100% sure of which door you should be entering through though as there are a dozen entrances and you don’t want to be wandering round panicking that you’re going to miss the show because you keep being sent to a new door to try. Third time lucky we collected our tickets and were directed to our seats which were quite spacious and had a great view of the stage.
The show was hosted by Margherita Taylor, who I’m sure you’ll know as the radio DJ currently on Smooth FM, and you could tell that she was just as excited as the audience for the show. She fluidly and passionately introduced the orchestra and conductor and gave us updates on the new few songs, giving everyone a chance to take a micro break before getting ready for the new round of songs. She has previous worked alongside the RPO and you could tell through their easy, friendly and open interactions, and I was pleased she was chosen to host as sometimes this position can feel forced and unnecessary.
As an 80s baby and 90s child I was brought up on the music of the 80s (you don’t know how jealous my mum was when she saw the song list) whilst also falling in love with the pop stars of the 90s and 00s. Still to the day my phone playlist is filled with “old school classics” and I’m always a bit out of the loop with up to date music as I’m too busy binging the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, 911, etc. The first half of the evening began with Valerie, Rolling In The Deep and Shine and I’m not sure there are words to truly describe how incredible it was to hear such songs performed by a live orchestra.
Followed by Robbie Williams classic Angels, Stop by the Spice Girls and Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, we were happy singing along and some of the audience were on their feet dancing away and you could see the entire audience were loving it. Even our extremely quiet, almost posh section of the seating who managed to sit in complete silence, not a single motion for the most part, but then sat saying how good it was and they loved that song. Clearly we just can’t sit still during a good song and can’t control the need to sing along like we’re absolute rock stars (when actually we’re more like wannabe karaoke stars).
Next up was Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud, who my sister is completely obsessed with, so I of course had to film that one for her (whilst trying not to sing too loud that it would have ruined the video, we’ve all done that right). The rest of the first half was filled with Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Fight This Feeling, Dido’s Here With Me, Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk, Beyonce’s Crazy In Love and finished with up with Pharrell Williams’ Happy. The interval was spent with me warning Abi that there would be no chance I’d be sitting silently for the second half as some of my favourite songs were being performed and I couldn’t wait for it all to start up again.
Kicking off the second half, going further back in the decades, was It’s Raining Men by The Weather Girls, and if you there is someone out there that can listen to that song and not sing along then I bow down to it because I don’t believe it can be done. We then had Madonna’s Materiel Girl and Elton John’s I’m Still Standing, and it was all performed so beautifully. I have heard instrumental versions of songs before and have been left baffled as to what song they are playing and have lost all sense of timing and words but that was not an issue with RPO. Every piece was performed impeccably and without them saying you could just feel a sense of pride and passion coming from the orchestra, knowing they were enjoying every moment and that they love what they do, and it made for an even better show.
Next up was Easy by the Commodores, How Deep Is Your Love by The Bee Gees, and a Stevie Wonder medley comprising of seven of his songs including Isn’t She Lovely and My Cherie Amour. By this point more and more of the audience were on their feet, even our aforementioned mute statuesque section, and if you hadn’t got up by this point the final songs of the evening were going to make sure there wasn’t a single seat with a bum still planted on it. Next up with Michael Jackson’s Thriller and The Jackson’s Blame It On The Boogie, and yes you could see the dances being performed throughout the audience. Finishing off the second half was Freedom by George Michael, who was a big fan of the Royal Albert Hall and RPO, and finally Dancing Queen by Abba.
Aside from one or two songs that I didn’t know the full words to it was like the set was written specifically for me. There was literally one song that I didn’t like on the list, but that’s just personal preference, and with 21 songs and a medley that I loved I couldn’t complain at all. When the performance ended and the RPO were given a standing ovation I thought that’s it time to go, except I then learnt that even an orchestra can do an encore and what better song to chose to wave off the audience that YMCA. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my experience at the Royal Albert Hall and with the RPO, it was an incredible evening, the songs were performed beautifully and the venue was exquisite. When can we go back?!