The rebranded BBC Radio 2 Electric Proms this year channels all its energy and resources into three nights of programming at the festival’s base, Camden’s Roundhouse. Each night is headlined by a certifiably huge act of the sort that appeals direct to the audience of the nation’s most listened-to radio station, BBC Radio 2.
Elton John opens the series in the week his album The Union, made with Santa Claus-bearded Leon Russell, is released. Russell will be on hand along with assorted other guests to help the knight of the piano through his set. Support comes from Rumer, whose debut album follows the week after and is being talked of in hushed tones as less ’70s homage and more companion piece to the greats. Plan B‘s also about, continuing to build on his change-of-direction success and revisiting the Roundhouse after headlining a Camden Crawl gig there earlier this year.
The middle night is the domain of Robert Plant, whose reconstituted Band Of Joy released an eponymous album earlier this year and who shows no sign at all of needing Led Zeppelin reunions to keep his creativity flowing. Closing the series is Neil Diamond, whose album of covers, Dreams, is released the week after the festival. Joining him will be Amy Macdonald and, oh yes indeed, Lulu.
In past years the Electric Proms has sought to entertain a wide variety of audiences, showcasing new bands, commissioning collaborations and promoting acts whose profiles would be boosted by the exposure. By focussing on radio-friendly artists with giant reputations the series has done much to define itself, though the loss of the edgier, hungrier acts is to be lamented. Yet with the Camden Crawl expanding to a three-day jamboree in 2011, there’s room still for all in NW1; having what for all the world looks like a gala series underlines that Camden Town really is the heartland of London’s thriving music scene.