Shirley Bassey @ BBC Electric Proms

United Kingdom United Kingdom | 26 October 2009

This week the BBC Electric Proms has played host to the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Doves and Florence Welch. It’s an event which has built a name on fusing choral and orchestral elements to contemporary music, but despite this, tonight’s performer is no stranger to appearing in front of a full band: Shirley Bassey, famous for her Bond theme tunes and massive voice, has been in the business for over 50 years.

Appearing in true diva style she opens the show emerging from a wall of smoke, dressed top to toe in glitter she is then lowered to the stage from a raised platform. From the word go the big band sound swells around the venue. There are not many singers who you can actually see filling a venue with their voice but Bassey’s vocals appear to expand into the room. The combination of tunes, ballads and even a Doors cover keep the audience, and the conductor, bopping along.

Tonight’s show is her first since last year’s Glastonbury supporting the release of her new album, ‘The Performance’. Support comes from Richard Hawley playing his brand of crooner style pop but his lack of presence on stage, later contrasted against the main act, is highlighted by most of the audience talking through his set.

Throughout the show a few friends join Shirley on stage. The Manic Street Preachers guitarist James Dean Bradfield, support act Richard Hawley and her producer David Arnold all come up to do there bit. Despite her vast range the welsh songstress makes sure to include all the classics including ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, ‘The Lady Is a Tramp’ and ‘Big Spender’. The beautiful theatre atmosphere is only interrupted a few times with the panto-style clapping along to ‘I Am What I Am’ and the surreal appearance of drumming beefeaters halfway through the set.

The Roundhouse, tonight’s venue, looks amazing bathed in blue and red lights as the walls drip with sparkling mirror balls. The full brass and string sections are as impressive to look at as to hear live.

The crowd clearly adore the singer and with the giant projectors showing pictures from throughout her career, the building is converted into the Church of Bassey, just for tonight. Still looking fabulous in her seventies she never misses a note or stops beaming her Hollywood smile. At one point an audience member presents her with a bouquet, a move that she later reciprocates by tossing white flowers into the crowd. This, the glitzy outfit and the flirting with “all these young men joining me on stage” all play to her diva image.

While there have certainly been more interesting and experimental performances at the BBC Electric Proms, tonight’s show allows you to appreciate the power of a full orchestra coupled with an amazing voice. As the Welsh singer belts out her final note the audience is showered with confetti. She didn’t even need to make all the effort, they loved her at the start, but now they do all over again.

For more on the BBC Electric Proms see: www.bbc.co.uk/electricproms 

By SG Parson.

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