Three Days in London – Elton John, Kensington Palace and John Legend
London is such a fascinating city! There are hundreds of years of old-world history and yet it is so current and cutting edge. High-end shopping, couture, cuisine and nightlife make London Europe’s live music capital. There is so much to see and do, that three days is not nearly enough time, but it is what I had to work with.
First on the agenda was to see Elton John’s Farewell Tour at the world famous O2 Arena. As of this writing, Elton has four shows left to play at the O2 and sixteen shows left before he officially retires. Arriving at the O2, I was amazed to find it is not only an arena but also an entire complex of shopping and restaurants along the Thames River. The O2 seats 20,000 and was sold-out because this show had been rescheduled from the pandemic and tickets have been held for years! There were fans dressed in Elton costumes and lighted, blinking glasses for sale, which were everywhere in the crowd. The excitement was in the air! Elton who just turned 76, appeared in black & gold tails opened with “Bennie & the Jets” to thunderous applause. He thanked the audience for waiting so long for these shows and their support throughout his career. He had family in the audience including one of his half-brothers Stan and his wife who he was excited to have attending the show.
Elton’s piano moves around on stage during certain songs and he played a 23-song setlist for a 2 ½ hour show that includes many of his iconic hits as well 70’s tunes from his early albums including, “Have Mercy on the Criminal”, “Take Me to the Pilot” and a tribute to Aretha Franklin with “Border Song”. His hit album “Honky Chateau” is celebrating 50 years! Many of the songs were audience sing-alongs like “Tiny Dancer”, “Rocket Man” and “I’m Still Standing” which had the entire arena standing up to the nosebleed seats! Elton’s incredible band that has been with him forever brings it with Davey Johnstone, Nigel Olsson, Ray Cooper, Matt Bissonette, Kim Bullard and John Mahon. The production of the part instrumental, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” is amazing, while Elton does a quick costume change. Elton’s piano playing is stellar with extended solos on many songs. The encore includes Elton’s duet with Dua Lipa, who appears on the big screen for her part on “Cold Heart”. The beloved “Your Song” and concluding with “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” complete with confetti and Elton leaving by motorized lift waving to the arena crowd. A bittersweet moment for those of us seeing Elton live for the last time, having to say goodbye yet having just seen an incredible show by one of my generation’s greatest artists!
Day two brought me to the South Kensington area of London to the historical Royal Albert Hall for a tour and a show with Voice coach and musical artist John Legend. Anyone can tour the Hall by going to their website and buying a ticket. Royal Albert Hall is one of most unique buildings in London. It seats 5,272 and was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, dedicated to her late husband Prince Albert. It is an amazing piece of architecture and everyone you can think of has played there. John Legend was playing a two-night gig and this was the second night. The surprise was that he was playing solo. No band, no back-up singers, just John and his piano! He arrived on stage on time and immediately began to play “Save Room”. John Rogers Stephens took us on a wondrous musical journey of his humble beginnings to becoming “John Legend”. He played covers from The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun” to Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon In The Sky”, which was part of his wedding to Chrissie Teigen. It was an interesting way to perform a solo show and you learned a lot about him. Of course the sound and lighting in RAH was superb. He played his hits “Ordinary People”, the Oscar winning theme from “Glory” and “All of Me” which was a sing-along with the audience. I was not particularly a big fan but after this show, I have a lot of respect for John Legend. His voice and piano make him a huge American talent of his generation!
My last day in London took me sight-seeing. I took the Underground to Westminster. There you can see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, London Eye and the Thames River. I took an Uber boat down the river which is a great way to see things on a quick trip. Tower Bridge, London Bridge, The Shard, many buildings along the way and it took me all way the down to the O2 to get a view from the water! You can hop-on and hop-off wherever you want to go to see the sights on land. Arriving back on land, I took the hop-on hop-off Big Bus to go to Kensington Palace and Gardens. The Palace has a new exhibition called “Crown to Couture”. An amazing array of vintage gowns of different time periods to gowns worn at recent Met Gala’s in New York. See Lizzo’s gown with her flute or Billy Porter’s Georgian-inspired Oscar red carpet or his Met golden wings extravaganza! There is a jewel room with tiara’s and jewels worn by Queen Victoria and other royals. Queen Victoria grew up at Kensington Palace as a child and her toys and clothing are on display. Kensington is the palace where the young royals live. Princess Diana lived there until her death. It is the official residence of William & Kate and their children. The Gardens are amazing and open to the public who enjoy them with biking, picnicking and taking photos of the Queen’s swans around the lake. What a thrill it was to be in just a small part of Kensington Palace and see some of the history of the Crown.
It was a whirlwind trip to London, but I loved it and hope to go back. There is so much to see and do. If you get a London Pass, it can help you get around to sight see. You must make reservations for some of the attractions like The Shard or the Kensington Palace tour. The Big Bus tours and Uber Boats are great for getting around, usually a one-day ticket depending on what you purchase. You can check it out at London Pass.
Vicky Sullivan Photos