‘David Arnold: Live in Concert’ review

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Currently best known for his work on BBC One’s Sherlock, composer David Arnold has been responsible for the music of five James Bond films, as well as countless other movies and television shows in a twenty year career which shows no signs of slowing.

It was therefore a rare treat for CultBox to see the man himself on his debut orchestral concert at the impressive Royal Festival Hall on London’s Southbank.

Positioned at the front of the stage, with electric piano and guitar, he introduced some of his best known work with wit and self-deprecating charm, disappearing off during the full orchestral numbers and leaving the stage to conductor Nicholas Dodd.

The evening began with a sampling of film titles; from the jaunty opening music of The Stepford Wives to the funky Four Brothers, the stompy Godzilla (1998) and the soaring strings of Paul’s end theme, ‘Goodbye (It’s A Little Awkward)’.


1993’s crime drama The Young Americans, Arnold’s first film score, provided a top twenty UK hit but in the absence of Bjork, we were treated to something rather special; a stunning vocal performance from sometime collaborator and ‘secret weapon’ David McAlmont.

With a slight diversion, we glimpsed behind the scenes of the upcoming West End musical adaptation of Made In Dagenham. Previews do not begin until October, but we were treated to a beautiful number, rendered in heart-breaking tones by the composer himself, the song to be performed in the show by Gemma Arterton.

Arnold’s input to the London 2012 Olympics was also referenced, with a performance of the Medal Ceremony theme, described as a tune to cover a lot of walking and some hands raised in the air!

Anecdotes were peppered throughout, like the fact that the melody for Stargate, which subsequently went on to front ten years of television , came to him as he was passing Toddington Services on the M1. That aside prefaced a triumphant twenty minute suite from the film which concluded the first half of the show.

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The second began with Bond and soon had the audience toe-tapping along.

Music came from all five of his scores, but the high point was undoubtedly a blistering rendition of ‘Surrender’ (the closing theme from Tomorrow Never Dies), performed once again by McAlmont, whose final notes had the room enraptured.

We enjoyed Arnold’s vocals again on the title track from The World is Not Enough, as well the unused ‘Only Myself to Blame’ from the same film, both songs written in collaboration with legendary lyricist Don Black. Arnold also performed a raw and pounding instrumental version of ‘You Know My Name’ from Daniel Craig’s debut Casino Royale.

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It was not all about 007 though, with special guests Mark Gatiss and Amanda Abbington introducing a crowd-pleasing suite of music from Sherlock, his collaboration with composer Michael Price. As Price conducted, we soaked in the intricate score and wondered vainly how long until the next instalment.

In triumphant fashion, the evening closed with the theme from Independence Day, which drew a standing ovation from the crowd and elicited a return to the stage for a rendition of Monty Norman’s timeless James Bond theme, plus a further standing ovation.

While this event was a one-off, we hope that the composer has the bug for more, as his terrific music deserves to be heard live.


Performed on Sunday 6 July 2014 at The Royal Festival Hall in London.

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