Music Royalty Meets Real Royalty
Unless you have been hiding under a rock you will have heard that the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth celebrated 60 years on the throne this week. As part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, a huge concert, featuring a galaxy of stars, was organised in front of the Queen’s London home, Buckingham Palace. How keen the Queen was to have the show there remains to be seen.
Gary Barlow, of Take That, was the main organiser. He is now known in some circles as Gary “Take that Knighthood” Barlow.
The show started with the Royal Guards band and Barlow’s ex-band mate, Robbie Williams, in a blue version of their tunic. He sang Let Me Entertain You. There were huge crowds all down The Mall waving union jacks. If you’re not familiar with the geography, most of them were a long, long way from the stage, which was built above the Victoria monument in front of Buckingham Palace. There was a star studded audience in the expensive seats; it needed John Lennon on stage to tell them to rattle their jewellery.
Next up was Will I Am singing I Gotta Feeling with his auto tune mike. He also wore a guardsman influenced outfit. He was joined by Jessie J, who was a bit more modestly dressed than normal, despite a split to the thigh in her dress. She stayed on after Will left and sang her number one hit Domino, now that girl can sing, without any mechanical aids.
JLS were next, a bloody boy band, they walked on with attitude, then sang some insipid song, something about love, I think. The director cut to the royal box about every 30 secs The Queen wasn’t there but the Princes, Charles, Andrew, Edward, William and Harry were, along with Kiki Wigglesworth, as Craig Ferguson calls the Duchess of Cambridge (nee Kate Middleton).
JLS were replaced by Gary Barlow and Cheryl Cole, in evening wear, before the sun went down. I wasn’t familiar with the song they sung, but it was slightly less insipid than JLS. I’m pretty sure it was called I Need You Now, as that was all they kept singing.
Sir Cliff Richard, the bachelor boy himself, was up next. He still looks much younger than his years, but sang as if his dentures didn’t fit. I think he sang one of his hits from each decade of the Queens reign, while pictures of the Queen as a girl were shown on the back screen. There was something really off putting about the way he was singing. There must be something wrong with his mouth or voice and that was before he broke into the Lords Prayer, to which the sheepish crowd swayed along. During Congratulations I spotted Mike Tindall (former England Rugby Captain) half heartedly waving a union jack in the royal box.
Next was Alfie Boe, an opera singer who dressed like a cowboy or Johnnie Cash and sang O Sole Mio, which is well known in the UK as an ice cream ad. He then broke into English and Elvis‘s It’s Now or Never, which is the same tune, Elvis he ain’t.
Grace Jones followed singing Slave To The Rhythm while twirling a Hoola Hoop round her waist, impressive for an old girl. She finished by saying happy birthday to the Queen, obviously no one told her what they were there to celebrate.
Ed Sheeren sang the A Team, a nice acoustic tune, which I think was the best song so far.
Some well known British comedians acted as comperes between the musical acts. They must have been embarrassed doing their weak royal jokes all day.
Annie Lennox came on wearing angel wings and da dahing a strange intro to There Must Be An Angel. She descended the onstage staircase very, very carefully, adjusting her long skirt for every step and finished with some Roger Daltrey style mike twirling, where she looked in imminent danger of doing herself an injury. She was always odd, but now comes across as an eccentric old lady
Australia‘s first contribution came from Rolf Harris in a union jack shirt. He did a very short song about the weather and introduced the soprano Renée Fleming she sang an aria, but didn’t do any Elvis.
Sir Tom Jones got a big build up and introduction from fellow Welshman Rob Brydon. He started with Momma Told Me Not To Come. There were no problems with Tom’s voice or dentures. Delilah started with a Spanish guitar intro and some slow lines from Tom. This may have been to give the crowd a chance to try and co-ordinate their swaying and flag waving, it didn’t help. The royal box could be seen singing along.
The Queen arrived, introduced by Lenny Henry and escorted by Prince Charles. He asked the crowd to let her know she had just missed Tom Jones. “How could you?” he asked “You live just there”. She wore her best postage stamp hairdo. Robbie Williams was back on stage in rat pack attire and singing Mack the Knife and things started to liven up. Rolf did another spot and it was interesting how the Queen always seemed to be oblivious to what is going on on stage.
200 people appeared on stage to sing Sing, the song composed by Gary Barlow and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, especially for the occasion. This was lots of different choirs accompanied by more film of the Queen at various stages of her reign.
Dame Shirley Bassey was the next of the Welsh contingent. She of course sang Diamonds Are Forever, while wearing some pretty spectacular ones on her ears and wrists.
There was a strange sound clash, like someone was squeaking over Dame Shirley’s fade out, then Kylie Minogue was introduced, which made me think that she may be lip synching to pre-recorded tracks. I was told she did that for the Sydney Olympics. But she still looks good and puts on a good show.
The front of Buckingham palace was used as a screen for a light show and Renée Fleming and Alfie Boe performed Somewhere from West Side Story, on a balcony in the palace.
Sir Elton John was up next. He sang deeper than he used to and a little like he was singing through a sock. Darkness started to fall as he sang Your Song and the lighting of the whole area started to look really good. Elton also seemed to have some problems with diction; he must use the same dentist as Sir Cliff. But even Princess Anne broke a smile while the whole crowd did the la-la-la-las to Crocodile Rock.
Lenny Henry cut off Rolf Harris mid-way through Two Little Boys to introduce Stevie Wonder, with all the enthusiasm of real fan. Stevie changed some of the words of Isn’t She Lovely to fit the Queen. But like Elton he also sounded like he had a lisp. I can’t see how the sound equipment could do that. Stevie sang Happy Birthday, again mixing up the occasions, but I doubt there are many 60th Jubilee songs. Superstition got everyone in the crowd moving, except the Queen.
Madness followed, from the roof of Buckingham Palace, singing Our House (in the middle of ones street) and some great lighting effects were projected onto the front of buck house, making it look like various much more low rent establishments.
The final act was of course Sir Paul McCartney. He played his violin bass and started with the Magical Mystery Tour. Then followed with All My Loving and Princess Anne and the Archbishop of Canterbury could be seen singing along. Then it was into Let It Be. Sadly Paul‘s voice now breaks up on a regular basis and he can not make those high notes, but that did not spoil the atmosphere. Next was a Wings song and the second Bond theme of the event Live and Let Die, not sure of the appropriateness of that one. Paul had by far the longest set of anyone. Next up was Ob La Di Ob La Da when he was joined on stage by everyone who had performed during the day, there has never been so many Knights and Dames singing and dancing in one place. But I did not expect this to be the closing number.
The royal party came on stage and Prince Charles spoke on behalf of the Queen and spoke very well. He got a little pay back on the comedians mentioning their “very funny” jokes. He finished with three cheers for the Queen and every one sang God Save the Queen, no one knew the second verse. The Queen appeared to have a tear in her eye, but it didn’t last long, far too stoic. The Queen then lit the national beacon with a large crystal and a huge firework display started from the roof of Buckingham Palace.
Quite an event, not all of the music and sound was great, but a huge logistical operation to put it all together and spectacular in the extreme. But for much of it I felt uneasy about who it is for. The Queen obviously has no interest in this kind of music. The younger royals have an easier time showing their human face and the role of the royal family has been changing over the reign of the current monarch, but she firmly has a foot stuck in the traditional role. So I guess it was really for the people of Britain and they certainly seemed to enjoy it and they came out in their tens of thousands to take part in this and the other celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee.
There are plenty of talking points. What did you think of the concert? Were you there? Was it the right bill? Is it a valid way to celebrate the Queens Jubilee?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
By Max Power