This is a retro-post. I put this online 24 December 2005 using the date it was originally sent out.
I have just returned from London where I flew especially to see a special Gala Charity Concert at Royal Albert Hall. I obtained the tickets through eltonjohn.com not that long ago. When you factor in airfare, hotel, meals, and such this was by far the most expensive concert I ever went to. And worth every single penny.
I will skip the details of the trip as not to bore you with yet another London synopsis. I did have some enjoyable experiences, but I shall skip right to the meet.
Arriving at Royal Albert Hall, I had to go to will-call to turn in my ticket voucher. Tickets to this event were very lovely and were oversized with an image of RAH printed in 24k gold leaf. I had a VIP ticket on the floor, row 11, seat 11. That’s dead center in front of Elton and his piano with an unequalled view.
This event was a formal event and being the VIP area, gentlemen were expected to wear jacket and tie (or tuxedo) and ladies suitable formal evening wear. I’ve never had to dress like this for a concert, but I did. This concert was in aid of the Elton John Scholarship Fund at the Royal Academy of Music and conducted by James Newton Howard.
The event consisted of Elton, the band and the Orchestra and Choir of the Royal Academy of Music, at Royal Albert Hall, London, England, on July 4, 2004 at 7 o’clock in the evening. The audience was full of VIPs including such notables as Dame Judi Dench and HRH the Duchess of Gloucester.
The floor seats were filled with the lucky few who had tickets from eltonjohn.com and the gentry of the British Empire (MPs, OBEs, CBEs, etc). Everything was strictly formal. The floor seats were velvet covered folding chairs. The first official crushed velvet seating section in RAH was filled with many other well-dressed individuals. Following that were the boxes. Then those were followed the regular stadium-type seating with the regular crowd who managed to get tickets.
The stage was under the massive pipe organ in the back of the hall. Elton was on the stage with his piano at exactly five minutes after the starting time (one doesn’t keep a Duchess waiting, I suppose). Next to him were four of his bandmates. Behind him were the creme-de-la-creme of the Royal Academy of Music’s orchestra all dressed in their finest. And then in the first few rows of seating were the Choir of the Royal Academy.
Elton gave a little speech about the fund. Then he explained that he would be selecting songs that would go well with choir and orchestra. His normal hit-heavy set list with famous standards was not to be, though there are no complaints. Songs such as Rocket Man, Benny and the Jets, and Pinball Wizard were not to be. Knowing that many people might expect, in advance, to be disappointed. They would be proven wrong. This was the second-best concert I’ve ever attended. Here’s the set list for Elton’s concert at the Royal Albert Hall:
Sixty Years On
The Greatest Discovery
I Need You To Turn To
The King Must Die
Burn Down The Mission
Come Down In Time
Tell Me When The Whistle Blows
Madman Across the Water
Sorry Seems to be The Hardest Word
This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore
Have Mercy on the Criminal
Take Me to the Pilot
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
Don’t Let The Sun go Down on Me
The sounds of the orchestra in that marvellous building were awe-inspiring. I imagine they could have played ANYTHING at it would have sounded like angels singing. Then when the choir got in as well it was amazing — nearly a religious experience.
There weren’t many people behaving as they would at a normal concert. There were not people dancing in the aisles, standing on chairs, and such. Some songs a few of the braver souls got up and danced a bit but it was a decidedly subdued good time.
Elton announced the concert had raised over £1.5 million pounds and that got a cheer. Then after it was over, he ran back onto stage to announce that Greece had just scored, and it was one to nil in the Euro Cup 2004 match and the crowd reacted to that.
The crowd shuffled out in an orderly fashion, very pleased.
I really wish I could have recorded one of the songs so you could hear what it sounded like.