My friend Kate came to stay this week. We’ve been friends forever and although she only lives a couple of hours drive away, we don’t get to see each other anywhere near as often as we’d both like. To make up for that, we hook up for a few days two or three times a year, I go to hers and she comes to mine. Katewas born in London but moved away more than 30 years ago, so when she comes down, we do a bit of the tourist stuff: the London Eye, the cable car, the bus tours, that kind of thing. This year was a little bit different though…
Kate is a massive, massive Elvis fan and desperately wants to go to Gracelands in Memphis and I promised her years ago that we’d go one day. For a whole host of reasons, we haven’t made it there yet, but, this year, Elvis has come to us! Yes, there is an exhibition at the O2 and I got tickets.
The exhibition is billed as being the “largest Elvis Presley retrospective ever mounted in Europe” and boasts over 300 artefacts. Kate had never been to the O2 before, so the whole thing was a bit of an experience for her and we had a short time before our session at the exhibition started (you have to book a slot) to sit and look at the actual structure (something I’ve never done before) so before I go back to the exhibition, a little diversion into the Dome.
The O2 started its life as the Millennium Dome, and became the O2 in 2007, when the Dome was re-opened to the public. There are several restaurants and bars in the O2, as well as more outside, a club, the arena and the exhibition area, and it is just a short walk to the Emirates Airline Cable Car across the Thames.
The Dome is one of the largest of its type in the world, and is made from a PTFE glass fibre coated fabric that is 52m high in the middle, a metre for every week of the year. It has 12, 100m high support towers (one for every month of the year). It appears as a circular structure, 365m in diameter – a metre for every day of the year. So that’s the O2 and Kate and I enjoyed sitting looking before going into the exhibition.
The exhibition though, that was something else. It is billed as the “largest Elvis Presley retrospective ever mounted in Europe” with over 300 exhibits taken from Gracelands itself, including some of Elvis’ jump suits, hand written letters and photographs of Elvis with President Nixon. All the advertising says that Elvis pink caddy is going to be there but I’m pretty sure that the car I saw was a cream Lincoln Continental. Did I miss something?
It’s well laid out, the exhibition starts with Elvis’ early years and takes you through his youth through to his film career to what the O2 terms the Concert Years. Kate told me that his movie career was part of his downfall – the exhibition alluded to this but wasn’t explicit as the King’s uber fan Kate. In fact, I doubt that she learned anything new here, I rather think she could have told the O2 a few things. One of the things I did enjoy was that lots of the women there were singing along to the songs that were being played, Kate found herself a singing partner and even I had a bit of a sing and a dance.
We spent an hour of so looking around and then we went into the finale show – a 26 minute show of some of Elvis’ filmed performances. I really began to understand how he captivated so many hearts when I saw this, and, let’s be honest, even I like a lot of his music.
If you are an Elvis fan, I’d say it’s worth going. Even if you’re not, it might still be worth it, although it’s not particularly cheap – full price tickets total at £21.75. It was worth it for me because Kate liked it so much.
We went for a bite to eat afterwards, which wasn’t bad, but it was the wrong time of day, it was a grill and some of the meat was a trifle overcooked but we enjoyed it anyway.
© Susan Shirley 2015