Posted on March 27, 2024 at 3:10 am

The world has changed a lot since my last concert in London, in 2019, and I’ve changed a lot with it. For reasons both obvious and not, I’ve gone from doing 20 to 30 concerts a year to doing maybe four or five. And so when Lambert Jackson asked whether I would consider doing a solo concert at the London Palladium, I was of course excited but also a little hesitant. Did I have something to say? Did I have the chops to say it? Did anyone still want to listen?

That was the challenge, then. Who am I at 53 years old, and what kind of music do I make? I sent out a sheepish email to Cynthia Erivo to see if she might possibly maybe somehow consider joining me. She responded instantly, without a pause, without an agent or a “team,” just with the wholehearted desire to get together and make music. And so I knew: If I had that magnificent instrument to collaborate with, I could express whatever I needed to say.

I’d met Alfie Boe before, but we’d never gotten to make music together, and let me tell you, getting to hear that voice singing my songs is a composer’s dream come true. And every note out of Cynthia’s throat – honest, impassioned, thoughtful, joyful, inspired – gave us new life, new breath, new fuel for the road ahead.

We did songs from three new shows, including the British premieres of songs from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Connector and another show I can’t announce yet. We did songs from my albums and premiered some brand-new ones that I hope to put on an album next year. We reimagined songs from The Last Five Years and Parade and Songs for a New World and The Bridges of Madison County, we got to surprise Georgia with one of her own masterpieces, and to top it all off we had a wild dance party to Aretha’s “Freeway of Love.” I got off the stage at the end of the night, after four standing ovations from a sold-out crowd, and I couldn’t believe we had done it. We had taken this venerable, magical theater and made it our home, our confessional, our house of worship, and our community center. I cannot thank the people of London enough for welcoming me back to their city with so much enthusiasm and joy and love.

We could afford to bring one musician with me from the States, and I was so fortunate that Randy Landau could join us with his enchanted basses. Randy and I have been making music together for over three decades. The kind of authority he brings to my music is simply not reproducible. He was the rock upon which this ferocious band stood, and they made thrilling music because of it (with a special shout-out to Mikey Davis for his electrifying flute solo in “The Western Wall”, and vocalists Sejal Kashwala and Fallon Mondlane for their essential contributions to nine – nine! – of the songs).

Three last thank-yous: the otherworldly beautiful lighting of Joseph Ed Thomas, these rapturously fantastic photos by Danny Kaan, and my wonderful friends and guardian angels at Curtis Brown Agency, Alastair Lindsey-Renton and Helen Clarkson, without whom nothing really happens.

I am so lucky to live a life with a lot of wondrous events and once-in-a-lifetime moments, but Sunday night in London will stay with me for a very long time. It was a rare moment when I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be and doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Advice to the Playaz (lyric by William Shakespeare) (2013)
Step It Up (2019)
KPR (2022)
JRB, SEJAL AND FALLON: It All Fades Away from The Bridges of Madison County (2013)
Boat from Untitled New Musical (2020)
The Shed Shack from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (2024)
Everybody Knows from How We React and How We Recover (2018)
Sanctuary from Coming From Inside the House (2020)
CYNTHIA: Cassandra from The Connector (2024)
CYNTHIA: Still Hurting from The Last Five Years (2002)
CYNTHIA: I Can Do Better Than That from The Last Five Years (2002)
ALFIE: Wondering from The Bridges of Madison County (2013)
CYNTHIA: You Don’t Know This Man from Parade (1998)
CYNTHIA: A Summer In Ohio from The Last Five Years (2002)
CYNTHIA: It Almost Felt Like Love (music and lyric by Georgia Stitt, 2006)
CYNTHIA: King of the World from Songs for a New World (1995)
CYNTHIA & JRB: I’d Give It All For You from Songs for a New World (1995)
The Western Wall from The Connector (2024)
Freeway of Love (music and lyrics by Jeffrey Cohen & Narada Michael Walden, 1985)

JRB: piano, vocals, arrangements
Cynthia Erivo: vocal
Alfie Boe: vocal
Sejan Kasowała and Fallon Mondlane: backup vocals
Randy Landau: bass
Tom Green: guitar
Julian Poole: percussion
Ollie Wood: drums
Dan Taylor: trumpet and flugelhorn
Mikey Davis: saxophone and flute
Caitlin Jeffery: saxophones
Matt Smith: trombone
Adam Hoskins: orchestra fixer
Horn section arrangements for “Cassandra,” “Summer In Ohio” and “Freeway of Love” by Alex Taylor
Horn section arrangement for “Step It Up” by Michael Nelson

All photos by Danny Kaan