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Live Review: Idina Menzel – 15th June 2017 – Royal Albert Hall, London, UK

5 min read
Photo: Warner Bros Records

London has always held a special place in the heart of Tony award winning actress and songbird Idina Menzel. Her performance as Elphaba in the hit Wizard of Oz musical Wicked propelled her onto the international stage as one of the defining stage performers of our time. She performed the role when the show opened in London back in 2006 and it added further critical acclaim to her resume; one that began with her appearance in Rent on Broadway in the nineties.

Since her time in Wicked, Menzel has taken on a number of stage and screen roles; most notably as the voice of Queen Elsa in the 2013 billion-dollar earning animated film, Frozen, which garnished her with a Grammy award for her performance of the lead single, Let It Go. Menzel also releases studio albums periodically and her latest self-titled effort has brought the songstress to Europe to perform her hits and favourite stage standard to fans.

The Royal Albert Hall seemed the most fitting venue to play host to the stars soaring vocals which shone from start to end of last nights performance in the capital. Despite a brief hiccup at the start of the opening song which was caused by her mic not being switched on, Menzel quickly pulled things tightly together as she took to a drum set that was placed centre stage and pounded away to the African-infused Queen of Swords in a black circus ringmaster inspired outfit complete with top hat.

The set-list offered to London fans was a bit of a mixed bag and at times unfortunately felt like a collection of misplaced strangers not quite knowing where to stand and how to act with each other. While Menzel’s performance was electrifying for the most part, performances of Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings and a brief cover of Led Zeppelins Black Dog which were neighbored with eclectic and playful versions of Don’t Rain On My Parade and her well-known Disney hits just felt slightly divorced. Outside of the song selection however, Menzel tore through the set-list with precision and emotional conviction for a crowd that were, at times, literally in tears during some of the songs delivered.

During her time performing on stages shows around the world such as Wicked and Rent, Menzel has picked up a few signature hits that would seem just wrong to not perform for fans. Among them were two of her most widely recognised hits.

First up was Defying Gravity which was her biggest number in Wicked. As the singer donned additional flowing white arm pieces that were attached to her outfit during a bellowing cover of Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings, enormous fans that were placed to the side of the stages walkway were turned on to provide maximum effect to the stars thrilling performance of the track as the singers pristine vocals filled every vacant crevasse of the grandeur Royal Albert Hall and had every member of the audience rise on their feet to give the musician the first of several standing ovations of the night.

It was however her sweet performance of the Frozen smash Let It Go that provided the night with its over achieving resident. As the music began to play, the crowd erupted with enthusiasm. As Menzel sung the hit, her fans in the crowd hung on every word; helping provide the singer with a strong backing vocal, but it was the younger members of the audience who were given the opportunity to shine at this point of the show. As Menzel sat casually at the front of the stage with her silver top sparking in the light, she asked for the youngest members of the crowd to join her on stage to perform the Frozen hit with her. During the course of several minutes, more and more children began to approach the stage and were welcomed by the encouraging stage superstar with a smile, a hug and a her microphone to help sing along as individuals. It provided the night with one of its most memorable and moving moments.

Other highlights flowed with some of the more stripped back and emotional additions including a gospel drenched and vocally mesmerizing cover of the Simon and Garfunkel classic, Bridge Over Troubled Water and a stunning performance of closing ballad, I See You.

The superstar also paid tribute to many during the course of the night through a string of heartfelt ballads. First offering condolences to her London audience for the tragedies that have been occurring in the capital and in Manchester over the course of the past few months, her son provided a focal point of Perfect Story which took us into the singers life following a painful divorce while a captivating performance of the musicians personal favourite Rent hit was dedicated to her friend and colleague who worked with her on the hit Broadway show and who died at the age of 30 during its run.

Emotional heart-string pullers aside, Menzel also showed off a humorous and cheeky side. Offering a fan in the circle section of the venue a front row seat for the night, she played with him periodically and even invited him up on stage to say hello to the crowd and to snap a quick selfie with the dazzling star. She was also quick to crack a few jokes here and there in an effort to get a chuckle from her audience and to lighten the mood following some of the more sombre numbers.

While the set-list was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of selection, Menzel turned out one hell of a show with her big, soaring and rich vocals and her bands tight support. Offering fans a mixture of iconic covers, stage show smashes and studio album gems, Menzel proved to be a jack of all trades during her touch down in the stunning setting of London’s Royal Albert Hall last night.