The King And Prince Shake Up The O2 With A Disappointing Double Bill
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Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll and Prince, the genre mashing flamboyantly dressed superstar. Two musical icons, both with exhibitions landing at the same time at the O2 in Greenwich.
— Londonist (@Londonist) November 29, 2017
They are widely recognised as two of the greatest artists of all time. Can these two shows live up to both stars' momentous legacies? As both shows are separate yet similar in style, we've decided to write one review to cover them together.
Both musicians were known for their dress sense and outfits are the main focus, from Elvis' glittery jumpsuits to Prince's everything purple mantra. There are guitars, awards, personal correspondence and plenty for fans of either artist to get into.
One enjoyable highlight is the letter asking if Elvis would perform for the Queen, a meeting that never happened — but we giggled at idea of the King turning down the Queen.
Ultimately it's music we're here for and for the uninitiated it's how best to access the genius of both Elvis and Prince. This is where the shows crumbles — there are videos of Elvis singing but nowhere near as much music as we'd like. We appreciate that neither exhibition is pitched as being about either artist's music but rather their lives, but those two things are completely intertwined. It's remiss to think anyone other than superfans would be interested in artefacts without the music to back it up.
The audio guide does offer some snippets but it pales when compared to the sophistication we've seen in V&A's use of locational audio in their exhibitions. While readers may think it unfair to compare this with a blockbuster V&A show, it's worth noting that both O2 exhibitions are charging £25 each for a ticket, which is up there with the most expensive museum shows we've been too. Add to this that some rooms in the Prince show are only accessible via a £60 VIP ticket and the ker-ching can be heard from the other side of London.
For those still mourning the loss of these great artists, there are some lovely touches on show. The suitcase from Elvis' last tour has been kept intact. Looking at those suits still in plastic, garners a lot of emotion knowing they were never worn on stage for all those fans waiting to see their idol. Similarly the Prince exhibition includes a section of the fence where fans left tributes to the artist on the anniversary of his death.
While fans of Prince and Elvis will probably enjoy these exhibitions, it does feel like a lot more could have been done to make these shows a more immersive experience and more welcoming to newbies. Though looking at the ticket prices it's probably only hardcore fans that will visit.
Words by the art critic formerly known as Tabish Khan.
Last Updated 10 December 2017