Great British Musical Variety at The
London Olympics Closing Ceremony
The London Olympics was one of the best in memory. We reviewed the highlights of each day’s events on our sister site Oz Sports Reviews. Normally the Olympics are only about the sport for me and I do not usually follow opening and closing ceremonies. But London’s closing promised to be a celebration of British music of the last 50 years and to a great extent it was.
I was surprised to read afterwards that many of the acts that were asked to perform turned down the opportunity. It was understandable that David Bowie and Kate Bush were not there, as neither of them perform live these days, but it would have been great to see the Rolling Stones close the show, as much as I am a fan of The Who.
So as a result there was a lot of recorded music included, the best of which would have to be the clip of John Lennon singing Imagine. Now I’m not sure that the Olympics is what John Lennon was imagining, but it would have to be pretty close, people from all over the world taking part in games and living in a village together.
The Show took place on a huge set in the centre of the Olympic stadium. The base was formed by a version of the Union Jack designed by Damien Hirst. It started with some bands performing on the back of trucks that were being driven around the running track. There was the fabulous Madness singing Our House and featured the Sax player taking off into the heavens on a cable, as per their old video clip. Unfortunately they were followed by the boy band One Direction, but it was a show for all, so live and let live. Apparently one of the young Australian swimmers was tweeting at the time ”I can’t believe One Direction are in there and I am waiting outside to come in”.
The Pet Shop Boys were next up singing West End Girls while being transported on cycle rickshaws and wearing conical hats.
The cast from Stomp appeared and made a lot of noise banging on the set, metal dustbins, anything they could lay their hands, or feet, on. There was a parade of mods on scooters accompanied by the recorded sound of The Who’s Baba O’Riley. At this point I had no idea who was going to be on the show, so I assumed The Who would not be, as they were playing them on record.
Ray Davies put in a live appearance during a sequence that was supposed to reflect London traffic, or a typical London day. He sang his 60’s hit Waterloo Sunset.
British supermodels Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss strutted the set, accompanied by a recorded version of David Bowie’s Fashion and some less super models.
George Michael made his first live appearance since his near death battle with pneumonia. He sang his hit Freedom and then followed it up with his latest single. Now we know that most musicians are there to promote themselves and may or may not have strong feelings about the Olympic spirit, but I thought plugging your new single in what is supposed to be a party atmosphere is a bit much, people want to hear familiar tunes.
Jessie J, Tiny Tempah and Taio Cruz arrived in a fleet of white Rolls Royces performing their hits Price Tag, Written In The Stars, and Dynamite. They then joined together on the stage to perform the Bee Gees’ disco hit You Should Be Dancing, now that’s a party song and most of the athletes and audience were (dancing that is).
They were followed by the much leaked reunion of the Spice Girls. A fleet of London taxis appeared to be driving aimlessly around the set, then five of them lit up like Christmas trees and the seasonings appeared. They sang or lip synched (who knows?) their hits Wannabe and Spice Up Your Life.
An unexpected appearance was Eric Idle from Monty Pythons Flying Circus, who emerged from a hole in the stage after a failed human cannonball set up. He sang Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and most of the audience sang along. This was a big production number, not that all the others were not, with an Indian Bhangra section and the fat opera lady, who is supposed to show up when the show is over, turned up right here and helped Eric with the chorus.
But the show was far from over, Muse sang Survival, not a favourite of mine, but you know something for everyone. Then Freddie Mercury made a big entrance. Now Freddie has been dead for over 20 years, but he would not let a little thing like that stop him. He sang Day-O from screens that pitched up from the set to cover all angles and had the audience responding. The show always goes on for Freddie. This led the remaining members of Queen, Brian May and Rodger Taylor into Brighton Rock and then they were joined on stage by Jessie J for We Will Rock You. Jessie had already done her own set, but she was the only one on the bill camp enough to fill Freddie’s shoes.
The ‘old boy’ band Take That took to the stage and performed Rule the World, a song I was not familiar with and somewhat inappropriate for an Olympics celebration I thought.
The familiar strains of Baba O’Riley were heard again, but this time it was The Who live on stage, Roger Daltrey’s voice standing up particularly well to the ravages of time, unlike some of his contemporaries. They followed with See Me Feel Me / Listen To Me and closed the show with My Generation, a song still suitable for any generation.
The show was designed to showcase British music, provide a background for the end of games party and have something for all tastes. I think it was successful in fulfilling those aims. Not everyone would have enjoyed all of the music. In amongst the sounds described there was ballet, Russell Brand miming I Am the Walrus, Military Bands, male voice choirs and Fatboy Slim playing dance tunes. But it was a big show for a big occasion and in the main most people would have enjoyed much of it.
The soundtrack entitled A Symphony of British Music – Music For The Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games is already available on Decca Records. You can get it from Amazon by clicking the links below.
By Max Power