The Sound of 007 in Concert Live from the Royal Albert Hall
by Cael McLeish
To commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the film franchise, EON chose to focus on the music from the James Bond films. The Sound of 007 documentary was a fantastic experience featuring some amazing stories from some incredible people, with an additional emphasis on No Time To Die. But, as a special treat, fans around the world had the opportunity to head to London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall for an extra special concert. The Sound of 007, live! I’m sure many of us have already had the opportunity to make up our own minds on what the concert was like, but here’s my opinion on everything that was the broadcast version of the concert.
The concert opens with a narration from Judi Dench herself, welcoming people to the show before launching into the first act of the evening. Kicking into the festivities on a high note is Shirley Bassey, who still looks and sounds fantastic at 85 years old, singing ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and ‘Goldfinger’. Yes, there are some rough spots, but for her to still be nailing such huge moments like the ending of ‘Goldfinger’ is huge! Following her is the first true Bond song, ‘From Russia With Love’, sung by Jamie Cullum. I’m not familiar with his work outside of this performance, but he nails the Matt Munro original without any extra embellishments or anything to try to make it his own, which I feel deserves praise.
Up next, one of the few original performers to make an appearance for this concert, Lulu. I love the orchestral and almost jazzy version of ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’ that the orchestra performs, thought I personally feel that Lulu may have struggled with singing some of her original vocal melodies after so many years. The performance is pitched down from the original track, but she still seems to be missing a few of the notes here and there.
Leaving behind the classic themes and coming into what’s arguably the most iconic of the Daniel Craig era, Emma Lindars sings Adele’s ‘Skyfall’. Emma does a fairly admirable job with the song, which is not one of the easiest to sing. It’s here that I want to bring up the stage design though. While the focus is naturally on the performers, I really love the video display elevated above the stage which is shaped like a gunbarrel and displays either an iconic shot from the title sequence from the film the song appeared in, an animation of gold embers that almost look like confetti and fireworks, or the full title sequence itself in the case of Skyfall.
‘You Only Live Twice’ is tackled by Celeste here and I’m sorry to say it but I find it hard to say anything nice about this performance. Her accent would be better suited to ‘Skyfall’, but throughout the song, she’s often more pitch-adjacent than actually hitting the correct notes. She almost seems to be singing the song for the first time rather than singing a refined performance for such a momentous occasion. This is quite easily one of my least favourite performances of the night.
Ella Eyre’s performance of ‘Licence to Kill’, on the other hand, is a powerhouse to behold! As one of the “special guest” performers, rather than the original artists, she actually does a great job showing respect and justice to the Gladys Knight recording. The only thing is I really wish she had been afforded some backing vocalists, or even a pre-recorded track, as she doesn’t really get a chance to hit those catchy backing lines from the end of the chorus, which are instead left instrumental and in my opinion, are a little weakened for it. All the same though, it feels like we go from my least favourite to one of the best in the blink of an eye (perhaps this is a metaphor for the miss/hit run the films seem to have had since Die Another Day?).
One of the most interesting performances is up next, with Garbage performing ‘The World Is Not Enough’. I like the performance plenty, but missing some of David Arnold’s electronic touches seems to make the verses really weak in my opinion. Shirley still nails the bridge and the choruses nicely, and getting to see the whole band on stage is a real treat! This has always been a song I thought was vastly underrated in the Bond library, so I’m very glad to see it added to the setlist here.
Up next, something very special. For a special arrangement of the James Bond theme, a marvellous collaboration between Hans Zimmer and David Arnold takes over the stage. The arrangement itself is absolutely fantastic, throwing in some extra twists and turns, such as turning itself into a medley of musical moments from No Time To Die. This is absolutely action packed. Hans even gets to have a guitar solo here which is fantastic. I especially love the moment where Zimmer’s guitar lead comes detached from the guitar and Arnold plugs it back in for him. It’s likely staged, but it’s such a great moment! This whole arrangement is fan-friggin-tastic and shouldn’t be missed by anyone.
Up next, ‘Live and Let Die’ as performed by Skin. Her voice actually reminds me a lot of the version performed within the film, right before Bond’s interrogation by Kananga. David Arnold is still on stage, though it appears that Zimmer left after the last number. They’ve now exchanged guitars which means David now has the legendary Dusenberg guitar that you may have seen the photos of. It’s all dressed up with the gunbarrel on the body and all the movie titles on the back. It’s an exceptional guitar, much as this is an exceptional performance of ‘Live and Let Die’.
A really touching tribute from David Arnold to Chris Cornell, who passed back in 2017, follows. It is a very touching few words that also give great context to what we’re about to see. “Since Chris and I had become such close friends, I didn’t really want to hear anyone else ever sing this, but I also didn’t want it excluded from tonight’s proceedings. So, please forgive me, I’m going to sing ‘You Know My Name'”. And he does just that, taking on guitar and vocal duties for ‘You Know My Name’, which is my all time favourite Bond song. I feel that he actually does a fairly decent job with the vocals for someone who isn’t known for his singing ability. His voice is nowhere near as edgy and the pitch has been adjusted for his voice, but it’s a solid performance and a great tribute to a fallen icon.
‘GoldenEye’ is next, performed by Paloma Faith. Her voice irritates me more than anything. This performance features none of the gravitas that Tina Turner’s had. Paloma’s accent sounds like she’s been gargling nails to me. However, credit where it’s due, the climax of the track with those piercingly high notes is fairly well executed. I just really don’t like the performance that leads there. Nor how much it trails off, given how well the film’s version cuts off into a solid climax.
Of course, having been featured in two different Bond films, the setlist wouldn’t be compete without Louis Armstrong’s ‘We Have All the Time in the World’. This version is performed by John Branch. His baritone vocals very well suit the song, but I feel that he, again, lacks a lot of the energy that Louis Armstrong’s performance gave us, though I feel a lot of that also comes from the slower tempo and the lack of the acoustic guitar fills that I’ve really come to love. This is still a solid performance though.
And, naturally, what else could possibly close out such a show? The James Bond Theme blares out in all of it’s glory to a backdrop of highlights from all of the Bond actors. David Arnold’s back to play the iconic guitar line, the orchestra sounds fantastic, the brass is amazing and to close it all out, the final note leads to a confetti drop!
So, that’s the version of the concert that was released on Prime. Fairly solid, but then, why do I seem to be down on it? Well, simply put, I miss what’s missing from the show. What could I possibly mean by that? Well, this hour long special is only about a third of what was actually included in the actual show. In fact, many great instrumental arrangements were also included in the festivities, not just limited to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but also the ‘Boat Chase’ theme from Live And Let Die, ‘That’s What Keeps You Alone’ from GoldenEye and ‘Capsule In Space’ from You Only Live Twice. Ella Eyre had also performed ‘Nobody Does It Better’ during her segment. There’s a lot of great stuff missing from the released portion of the show and some of it would’ve been cooler to have than a few of the songs we actually have in my opinion.
But there you have it, The Sound of 007, as released on Prime. I would recommend it to Bond diehards looking to I’ll an afternoon, but I’m not sure casual fans would really find as much here as I did. I’m still hoping this will someday get a more completed release as this portion seems to be leaving the Prime platform before too long. I’d rate this a solid 4/5.