Three evenings of joy at The Roundhouse

Monday 1 November 2010, 14:12

Bob Shennan Bob Shennan

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Robert Plant performing at the BBC Radio 2 Electric Proms on 29 October 2010.

I woke up on a high this morning. As well as Liverpool fighting their way out of the relegation zone, I experienced three amazing gigs at the BBC Radio 2 Electric Proms on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Three iconic Radio 2 artists. Three very different, but equally ecstatic, audiences.

Elton John opened the proceedings. But this wasn't the huge arena show you might expect from one of our national treasures. Instead Elton performed in the intimate setting of London's Roundhouse with his idol Leon Russell, who first watched Elton perform in the early Seventies at LA's Troubadour club. Their recent album 'The Union' seems to have given Elton a new energy and vigour and like so many great creative people, he's re-invented himself once more. The unique collaborations are one of the joys of Electric Proms. Elton on stage with Plan B and with Rumer respectively showed how different generations can still be united by music.

The culmination of Friday night's Robert Plant was a spine-tingling performance with the London Oriana Choir which followed a rapturously received version of 'Rock n Roll'. As he reminded the audience, Robert had first performed on the Roundhouse stage with Led Zeppelin 40 years earlier. Four decades on, with the incredible Band of Joy, Robert Plant was as compelling as ever. BBC 2 has a real treat in store for fans of this extraordinary artist: The 'Robert Plant By Myself' documentary that transmits this Saturday evening is one of the most revealing interview for many years - the perfect compliment to the live performance.

The final show saw Radio 2 favourite Neil Diamond perform so many of those classic tunes that have made him such a loved songwriter, including songs that he's written for others, like The Monkees' 'I'm a Believer.' The Roundhouse crowd were in fine form singing and rowing along with Lulu as she performed 'The Boat that I Row'. I've never known an audience so full of love for their hero, which you will be able to see when the concert is broadcast on BBC 2 on Saturday 13 November.

If you had a chance to catch Simon Mayo's Radio 2 Drivetime show from the backstage bar at the Roundhouse you would have heard all the pre-gig gossip as well as live performances including Rumer singing a spellbinding version of Elton's Rocket Man, and Lissie performing Stairway to Heaven, both of which are available to listen to online.

Bob Harris's aftershow programme on Saturday night was the ideal way to reflect on the three spellbinding yet diverse gigs, which included live interviews with Lulu and Nell Brydon, both giving their verdicts on the performances. The audiences loved the memorabilia exhibition at the Roundhouse, and many fans have sent in pictures of their artefacts which are currently displayed on the Radio 2 website.

In case you missed any of the gigs, you can listen again on the Radio 2 web site (and in glorious HD Sound on the Electric Proms site) and watch on the red button. The Robert Plant and Neil Diamond concerts will be broadcast on BBC 2 on November 6 and 13 respectively.

Like the collaborations on-stage, the Electric Proms partnership between Radio Two and BBC Two gave both viewers and listeners a wholly unique experience. This is the first year that Radio 2 has programmed the concerts, and I'm proud of the efforts of Jeff Smith, Radio 2's Head of Music and his live music team in pulling off a stunning first Radio 2 Electric Proms.

Bob Shennan is Controller of BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music

  • Jeff Smith, head of Music at Radio 2 and 6 Music, wrote about the Radio 2 Electric Proms (and has responded to some comments from listeners) on the About the BBC blog.
  • The concerts were reviewed by many, including The FT, The NME and The Guardian.
  • The picture shows Robert Plant during his performance on Friday.

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