Kiki Dee & Carmelo Luggeri Outshine the London Christmas Lights

Although we have so much on offer throughout our two counties, another thing going for us here in Kent and Sussex is the ease with which we can get to the bright lights of London.  And at this time of year, like everywhere else, London’s lights are especially bright.

My rail route of choice is the Brighton line, boarding the train at Hayward’s Heath and arriving in London’s Victoria Station around 45 minutes later.  However, I always like to combine trips if I’m heading to the capital so I look to see what else I can do while I’m there.

Kiki Dee & Carmelo Luggeri

That was easy on this rainy day in December.  Much earlier in the year I’d bought tickets to see Kiki Dee so Hub and I headed up early to walk a circuitous route to the venue taking in the sights of the capital’s Christmas lights.

From Victoria, we waited in the rain for almost 30 minutes for the bus to Oxford Street (they supposedly run every 8-10 mins) but it never came so I eventually capitulated and allowed myself to be led to the Underground instead.  A shame, as I wanted to see the lights down Oxford Street and check out Selfridges windows from the top deck.  Instead, we emerged from the tube at Oxford Circus and headed down Argyll Street to view what Carnaby Street had on offer.  There’s always a theme going on down London’s swingiest pedestrian street and this time it was one of the Universe with impressive lit planets.

Carnaby Street Christmas Lights

We then veered right to walk down Regents Street where they had the ubiquitous angels spread overhead.  I thought they were impressive when I first saw them a few years ago and, although they still are, I must admit to thinking “oh, it’s the same again.”  Part of the joy of seeing the Christmas displays is looking forward to something new.  Still, I expect the Crown estate is struggling with the cost of living and wants to get its money’s worth from what was obviously a costly installation.  The Angels are actually ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ created by James Glancy Design (responsible for many of London’s light displays) to reflect some of the earliest lights of Regent’s Street when they first began in 1954.

Regents Street Lights

There’s a great piece of video footage here in case you haven’t seen them.

We headed past Hamleys toy store which was, predictably, heaving, and picked our way through the crowds to Leicester Square.  Yes, crowds.  Even though the weather was miserable and there is, supposedly, a cost-of-living crisis, it didn’t seem to affect the number of overseas visitors splashing through the rain or splashing the cash.  Perhaps it’s only us Brits who are suffering?!

Leicester Square wasn’t at all impressive, mostly boarded up for some noisy private event, so we pressed on to Covent Garden where the huge Christmas tree looked exactly the same as last year.  Have you picked up that I wasn’t overly impressed by this point?  Perhaps my Christmas spirit was dampened by the wet weather.

Covent Garden Christmas Tree

Thankfully, with one damp foot and a blister threatening to develop on my right heel, we arrived at Pizza Express Live, Holborn, where we were shown to our table.  The stage was set in anticipation of the evening’s entertainment and we dried off with drinks as we awaited the arrival of our pizzas.

The venue is all black sophistication interrupted by white spotlights and coloured stage lighting.  I love the intimate nature of both the Holborn and the Dean Street PE Live venues.  The audience is very close to the stage so the performance really feels like the co-creation that every concert is.

Shortly after we’d finished eating, Kiki Dee strode past our table and stepped onto the stage along with the fabulous guitarist, Carmelo Luggeri, with whom she’s been collaborating for close to 30 years.

And there she was, that familiar red hair, the infectious, wide smile.  Kiki is beautifully slim and stylishly dressed in a black evening trouser suit with sequin-embellished lapels and a classic white shirt.  Not a dungaree in sight!

Kiki Dee & Carmelo Luggeri

Greeting us, she also wishes her niece, Emma, a happy birthday.  It turns out this is the final date on their tour and the audience is dotted with celebrity friends who Kiki spots occasionally and greets during the show.

I’d booked the tickets because I love Kiki’s voice.  Her ‘Amoureuse ‘EP containing that emotive song and also the track ‘Loving and Free’ is one of my favourite pieces of vinyl.  Hub was happy to come with me to see Kiki but Carmelo was the icing on his cake.  When Carmelo began to play I saw Hub (a professional guitarist himself) instantly up his attention to another level.

Carmelo uses two guitars, but rather special ones – a Larivée Acoustic and a Parker Electro-Acoustic – adding loops and occasional tracks isolated from their studio albums (drums on one song, for example) to fill out the sound.  Kiki has a keyboard on stage to add a “wash” under some of the songs.

They surprise us by playing ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ first.  It’s a genius move.  As Robert Plant said to her “It’s your ‘Stairway to Heaven’” and she knows the audience will be waiting for it so she gives it to us early so we’ll focus on the rest of the set.  Not that it’s a throwaway rendition.  It’s arranged very differently from the hit version, obviously.  You could hear a pin drop throughout.

This is followed by a wonderful version of the Kate Bush song ‘Running Up That Hill’ arranged by Carmelo, making full use of the stunning harmonies created by their voices.  They sound heavenly together.  Carmelo works further magic showing his virtuoso guitar work, thumb picking with ripples of hammering-on.

Kiki chats to us about her father, his work ethic, her childhood in Bradford before inviting audience participation in ‘Every Kind of People.’ The audience lapped it up and were happy to get involved.  A couple of single men at the front tables around the stage appear to be familiar with the set. Kiki has her groupies, like all iconic performers.  She greets them generously and warmly.

Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’ comes next, showcasing slide guitar and harmonica from Carmelo. This is followed by one of their originals ‘The Long Ride Home’ which is also the title track of last year’s album. It has a ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ vibe but it evolves as Kiki picks up a tambourine and the music swells.

Author and Hub

Following a short break comes one of the songs I’d hoped to hear, ‘Amoureuse’ – stunning.  I’m happy.

The second half also features a long Spanish-style guitar solo by Carmelo that prompts spontaneous applause.

This half contains more original and varied compositions from Kiki & Carmelo’s five joint albums.  ‘Amen and Goodbye’ from their penultimate album, ‘Where Rivers Meet,’ tackles the subject of TV evangelists who call for money in order to save people. Kiki wrote the song while touring the US with Elton John.  It has a suitably sinister vibe.

Kiki enjoys a lovely rapport with the audience.  She recalls meeting David Hockney who , like her, hails from Bradford.  He invited her to his home in Malibu for tea and told her that although his mother was impressed with the sunny, warm weather she had one reservation saying “It’s lovely, son, but a beautiful day like this and there’s not one line of washing out.”

You can take the person out of Bradord but….

Far too soon we get to their final number and it’s ‘I Got the Music in Me,’ which we all enjoy immensely.  The gig ends on a high with the audience fully engaged and involved.

En route from the stage, Kiki touches my shoulder – I’ve not washed since!

Infused with a warm glow, we head to the exit, brushing past Rula Lenska on the way.  Her companion says he likes my sparkly top.

Fabulous pizza

We’ve had a fantastic night with tasty food, cooked to perfection, fine wine and entertainment that was even better than I’d hoped it would be.  Pizza Express Holborn is a comfortable venue with friendly and efficient staff.

And the best part…?

The bus arrived the second we reached the bus stop.

Pizza Express Live:

Kiki & Carmelo:


  • Maria Bligh

    Maria Bligh is a journalist, published author, professional speaker, singer and artist now settled in Sussex, UK, having previously travelled extensively throughout the UK and overseas, including a period living in Geneva. Married to a successful musician and with a background that encompasses working in the music industry, finance, sales and presentations training, she maintains a diverse existence. Her interests encompass travel, nature, animals and the arts: music, theatre, painting, writing and philosophy. Maria now writes for online and print magazines. Having once maintained a regular full page in “A Place In The Sun” magazine, travel is an obvious interest, but her articles also cover a wide variety of subjects. She bills herself as “an observer of the human condition and all that sail in her.” Maria has frequently appeared on radio & TV as well as in print. Her humorous style has seen her travel the world addressing audiences throughout Europe, Asia and Australasia and as a cruise-ship speaker with P&O and Fred Olsen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *