Performing at concert with 72 hours' notice 'felt like a dream'

Zak Abel sang a pared-back version of the Simple Minds classic 'Don't You Forget About Me'


Zak Abel performs inside Windsor Castle grounds at the Coronation Concert, in Windsor, west of London on May 7, 2023. - For the first time ever, the East Terrace of Windsor Castle will host a spectacular live concert that will also be seen in over 100 countries around the world. The event will be attended by 20,000 members of the public from across the UK. (Photo by Chris Jackson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CHRIS JACKSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

A week ago, Zak Abel was a little-known singer-songwriter, noted primarily for his collaborations with bigger artists, such as John Legend, Paloma Faith and Kygo.

Now, his name is known to millions around the world after he stepped in at the last minute to perform at Sunday’s Coronation Concert.

Abel, 28, who was contacted after singer Freya Ridings pulled out due to illness, told the JC: “I was at home, watching Desperate Housewives when I received a phone-call asking if I would be up for performing at the Coronation Concert. When they confirmed it later, I was jumping around the room.”

With just 72 hours to learn the Simple Minds song Don’t You (Forget About Me) buy an outfit “fit for that kind of audience” and rehearse at Windsor Castle, Abel said that the whole experience “felt like a dream”.

As for the performance itself, which was watched by over 10 million people in the UK, plus viewers in 125 other countries, Abel was “just trying to be present and focused and take it all in. These opportunities don’t come round very often.”

The accompanying light display, which echoed King Charles's passion for the natural world, resonated strongly with Abel, who is vegan: “I felt a big responsibility to get the message across.”

Sharing the stage with the likes of Katy Perry and Nicole Scherzinger, the north-west Londoner recalled a memorable moment with one of his musical heroes, Lionel Richie. “Just before I went on stage, he shook my hand and said: ‘I’m watching you.’”

Despite not meeting King Charles and Queen Camilla, Abel did chat to Prince William, describing him as “really kind and charming”.

Born Zak David Zilesnick in Hendon, the former pupil of Mathilda Marks-Kennedy primary school started singing and songwriting after being “brought up on a diet of Bill Withers [and] James Brown.”

His latest single, “Dance with You” has just been released and in October, Abel will embark on a UK and European tour.

In the meantime, he is enjoying his growing fame. “Every 20 seconds, I am getting really lovely comments from people all over the world, showing their love and support,” he said.

Tickets for Zak Abel’s tour can be found at:

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