Before the London 2012 Olympic Games began, I was definitely a bit cynical about the whole thing. Then after a mostly wonderful opening ceremony concert and a few inspired performances by our country's athletes, I was won over. I'm actually sad to see the whole thing come to an end, it's been two memorable weeks that have seen this country in the most buoyant mood it has been for a long time.
However last night's Closing Ceremony Concert was a massive let down, paling in comparison to the impressive opening ceremony and bringing things to an end with a whimper rather than a bang. At the opening ceremony we got Paul McCartney, Arctic Monkeys and Frank Turner. Last night we got the Spice Girls, the Kaiser Chiefs, some has-beens and some nobodies that are presumably the pop "stars" of the moment.
Because the mighty Blur were playing Hyde Park with The Specials and New Order the same night, I tuned into Absolute Radio to listen, since it was obvious that this would be better than the official Olympics closing concert, so instead I was watching all this an hour or so later via the BBC red button channel. The three-hour show was opened by Emeli Sande, a woman with a decent enough singing voice for sure, but did she have to appear at this AND the opening ceremony? Madness performed 'Our House' on the back of a lorry while hundreds of extras acted out street parties, before we were treated to an excitable brass band rendition of Blur's 'Parklife', with many athletes and spectator's joining in on vocals. I seem to remember switching off a while later as some awful rapper came onstage, probably Dizzy Rascal or Tiny Temper I presume. And then there was that bloody Jessie J woman... why was she on no less than THREE times? In fact wasn't it four? She also participated in a butchering of the Bee Gee's 'You should Be Dancing' while Robin and Maurice turned in their graves.
While I had switched over, the Pet Shop Boys sang 'West End Girls' while wearing traffic cone hats and riding on rickshaws before (X Factor boyband) One Direction mimed their way through one of their hits that someone else had written for them. So glad I turned over, so I didn't have to witness even a second of this poor quality rubbish. However because I had to avoid being exposed to such horrors, I missed the legendary Ray Davies singing 'Waterloo Sunset', his ode to London and the River Thames. Why put an icon like him on after some talent show nobodies?
Then the main part of the ceremony kicked off with George Michael plying his hit 'Freedom'. All very well, after all he's a well known British musician who has his own little place in history. But what came after 'Freedom'? A performance of his new single. How exactly did he get away with promoting his latest product, a song which nobody knows and which certainly failed to capture the mood of the moment? What makes him so special that the Olympics people let him flog his boring new song to an audience of billions? Shameful. Then the intro to The Who's 'Pinball Wizard' starts as a mass of scooters ride into the stadium! It's Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend! Actually, no it's the Kaiser Chiefs. A pretty poor substitute if there ever was one. They could have at least bothered to find aband who more accurately represent mod culture, Ocean Colour Scene being a prime example.
|Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/cloudzilla|
Once I knew I was safe from the worst stuff, I turned back over to check it had gone only to be confronted with the Spice Girls. A ceremony celebrating British Music featuring the tacky manufactured pop act that, after the Britpop glory years of the mid 90's, had given British music a massively bad reputation as well as sending the charts back to square one. And they certainly hadn't improved. One NME reader said "couldn't get Bowie so here's the Spice Girls!! insulting doesn't even start to describe it..." and another said that their "singing" was like someone swinging a bag of cats against a brick wall. Even the pre-recorded vocals couldn't disguise the fact how appalling they still are. Obviously I changed channels, changing back every so often to check if it had finished, so it came as a relief when the five talentless never-beens had shut their mouths and made way for a REAL British musical icon...
Yes, Liam Gallagher was there with Beady Eye playing a rendition of 'Wonderwall'. But what should have been a rousing, anthemic moment seemed more like uncomfortable self parody. Liam's voice was perfectly in key, yet he sounded very uneasy and over-the-top nasally. Maybe he just didn't want to be there, or maybe he felt a bit ridiculous singing a 17 year old song that his estranged older brother wrote instead of blasting out new Beady Eye music. But even an off-form and underperforming Liam was better than all the fakes, the has-beens and the nobodies. That is with the exception of Elbow, whose soaring anthem 'One Day Like This' was played wonderfully with Guy Garvey in superb voice. Elsewhere Annie Lennox mimed a 19 year old solo single from a crane, and that Jessie J cropped up AGAIN to accompany famed dead horse floggers Brian May and Roger Taylor on a third rate mauling of 'We Will Rock You'. Muse arrived with the naff bluster of their Olympics single 'Uprising', dressed in glittery suits, coming across like a poor Queen tribute (although not as poor at the one May and Taylor were responsible for) and Matt Bellamy's voice sounding nowhere near as good as usual.
Then we had Take That (predictably), which I am only mentioning because at the time I didn't even notice that the smug annoying wanker Robbie Williams wasn't there. Just goes to show how little he was missed and how the other four are by far the more talented ones. After the huge Olympic fame was slowly distinguished, London 2012 was officially over, but not before The Who finally made an appearance, Daltrey and Townsend giving the most spectacular and uplifting performance of the night, and showing all the pop "stars" of today how it's done, almost as if to remind people that the British public used to buy good records. Other points worth noting is the appearance of John Lennon on a massive screen singing 'Imagine', a beautiful and touching moment, and the non-appearance of David Bowie. Probably due to the amount of time 'Heroes' has been played during these games, there were a lot of rumours that Bowie would take to the stage for the first time in six years. So when short snatches of 'Space Oddity', 'Changes' and 'Ziggy Stardust' appeared on the big screens, for a moment everyone thought it was really about to happen. So imagine the disappointment when we were instead treated to some supermodels walking about to 'Fashion'. Talk about getting our hopes up.
So that was it. The "elegant mash-up of British music, a rich tapestry of British culture and life ... something people remember for years to come”. The Telegraph commented: "No Stones or Zeppelin, the greatest rock groups the world has ever seen, no Elton, Sting, Clapton or Macca, our biggest international stars, no Jam, Clash or Pistols (no punk rock at all), no art school heroes like Roxy, Radiohead or Massive Attack, no Robbie, Coldplay or Adele, the biggest stars of the modern era. Over on the other side of London, Blur, New Order and The Specials played a Best of British concert, a line-up that made a kind of sense of Britain's wry, bold, self-critical but ultimately optimistic pop character. In the Olympic Stadium we had Taio Cruz, Ed Sheeran, One Direction and Jessie J (you couldn't get away from Jessie). This was the Simon Cowell version of pop history: brash, crass and about ten years old."
The Daily Mail summed it all up very well: "After two weeks of inspiration and brilliance, after the guts and grit of British athletes being all that they could be, ladies and gentlemen, we now bring you... singing out of tune in a traffic jam, One Direction, George Michael plugging his new single, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell looking sulky and Russell Brand being a walrus. Please make it stop."
Everyone who had the sense to go to Hyde Park that night: a decision well made.