A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Olympic opening ceremony and its playlist to end all playlists, and after the whirlwind of British classics we were treated to I was expecting a lot in the close. Though perhaps not as mind-blowing as the former, there was still enough to make me swell with music-induced patriotism.
The closing ceremony began similarly to the first, as Emeli Sandé cemented her name as one of Britain’s best female vocalists, performing Read All About It unfazed by the 26 million people watching. The 25 year old, who brought many people to tears as the videos of emotional Olympians played alongside her, seemed just as at home as the string of legends that followed her. The first of these, Madness, complete with flying saxophonist, proved that no amount of Fish Finger advertising can ruin the feel-good factor of Our House, and the big names didn’t stop coming with appearances from the likes of Liam Gallagher, Take That, Fat Boy Slim and The Who.
…footage of John Lennon singing the anthem of peace and freedom, Imagine, was played…
The real success of this show came with the meshing of past and present. With the world watching, director Kim Gavin excelled in showcasing our culture, but did even better at making our musical history accessible to the younger generations. The fangirls got their first gift as One Direction, following a chariot pulled Pet Shop Boys, sang What Makes You Beautiful, and the mix just kept getting better as Ed Sheeran showed he’s more than just a ginger haired novelty for girls to scream at by performing Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here alongside Floyd’s Nick Mason. The chart-followers really got their fill when Jessie J, Taio Cruz and Tinie Tempah climbed from their cars and got all ages on their feet with a cover of Bee Gee’s hit You Should Be Dancing. As if this wasn’t enough, and just as the adults were beginning to see the balance fall in their favour in the form of Brian May and his guitar, Jessie J joined him to perform We Will Rock You, which, in spite of the massing Twitter cynics, she did with great talent and respect. After all it’s no small feat to follow Freddie Mercury, a great showman, even on video.
Although Jessie J seemed to be running the show, she was far from stealing it in an evening that was full to the brim of legends. Paul McCartney may have got the world singing along to Hey Jude in the opener, but every Londoner was brought to tears by former Kinks frontman Ray Davies performing his ode to the city, Waterloo Sunset, and despite sounding his age, he gave it all the feeling he ever did. The tears were soon blown dry with the force of Guy Garvey and Elbow, who, with their mature and anthemic Open Arms and the entirely relevant One Day Like This, roused the hearts and pride of the flag-bearing athletes. However, the ceremony reached its emotional peak when, in the true Olympic spirit of equality, footage of John Lennon singing the anthem of peace and freedom, Imagine, was played, bringing him to life and the world to a brief moment of harmony.
…panning every generation and failing no-one’s tastes…
With the brilliant and the emotional over, all that was left was the bizarre. And it was. Annie Lennox, though brilliant, came out in some Hell-built Viking longship and sang a song from Dracula; George Michael was somehow given time to shamelessly promote his new single, White Light, to the world; Russell Brand of all people, managed to pull off a cover of I Am The Walrus atop a bus driven straight from the 60s; and Fat Boy Slim – at this point I thought somebody had slipped something into my drink – appeared in the brain of a gigantic inflatable octopus. But to top it all off, and the part that was my own personal highlight, Eric Idle sang his wonderfully optimistic Always Look On the Bright Side of Life. The song, interspersed with Indian dancing and percussive Morris Dancers, was the kind of act that even Muse couldn’t follow.
Who would ever have thought we get to a point in our lives when the likes of The Kaiser Chiefs, Annie Lennox and Ray Davies would open for the Spice Girls? Despite the huge amount of cynicism, the act everyone was talking about really pulled it off and made the most of their forced reunion with all the commitment and energy the occasion deserved. In another evening of musical brilliance, panning every generation and failing no-one’s tastes, we once again proved that Britain’s talented artists may no longer be in their era, but they will never be out of place.