13/08/2012

Games Over

The closing ceremony of the London Olympics was as busy and confusing as the city.
Annie Lennox had the right idea. You’re appearing in an 80,000 seater stadium in front of a global television audience of billions so you might like to do something special. How about arriving in a large pirate ship wearing historical costume and looking just a little bit mad? That is how we want pop stars to be and that is why we’ll remember Annie long after we’ve forgotten everyone else. Nowhere near as ambitious or conceptual as the brilliant opening ceremony, this musical finale of the London Olympics still had its moments- but did it have to go on quite so long?

Annie finds a way of avoiding the congestion charge

You’d have thought that herding the athletes in en masse would have shortened matters but it didn’t. All it meant was the space for more music so instead of a ceremony, it became a concert and even though most artists only got one song, often delivered from a speeding vehicle, it seemed to last longer than a festival.
Matters started well enough with an impressive set filled with London landmarks and covered in news print with the athletics track decked out as a busy road. The hustle and bustle of a major city successfully conveyed, acts often appeared on moving vehicles – cars, taxis, trucks and buses were employed to get them around so everyone caught a glimpse and they could be moved out just as quickly.  The athletes came in, guided by people dressed like flight attendants except they had light bulbs on their head.
The central part of the event was a symphony of British music of the last sixty years and the results demonstrated just how many of our musical icons are dead, retired or too snippy to turn up. So in order of Pop Moments, we had…
Annie Lennox as mentioned above was in Imperial form dressed to the nines and choosing a rather different mode of transport to that normally seen in the capital. In three packed minutes she made more impact than anyone else giving the impression of still being an active performer even though its yonks since we’ve seen her. She has now set the standard for arrivals and we look forward to Jessie J descending into a future Olympic stadium in a gold lame helicopter.
The Spice Girls came a distant second by way of personalised taxis and the fact that unlike so many other stars of a certain vintage they still looked relatively like themselves. Plus, when you’ve got hits that everyone can sing and clap along to, why not perform them?
Ray Davies may already have been forgotten but his simple almost out of reach vocal on `Waterloo Sunset`, one of the best songs ever written about any city, was a beautiful moment. Just be thankful we didn’t have the Kaiser Chiefs to perform it instead. As if they’d ever do that..
The Kaiser Chiefs. Oh, ok then. When Ricky Wilson first zoomed into the stadium on a scooter singing a Who song I was thinking `Gosh, Roger Daltrey’s voice has worn well` .Then the penny dropped, the first of several pennies clattering disappointingly to the ground tonight.  To be fair, the Chiefs made a better job of The Who than the actual Who later did but isn’t it a bit odd that with Rog and Pete actually there, someone else got to sing one of their songs?
"No! I said that way.."
Pop Stars who were there but not there. Death has never been a barrier to a continuing career so it was nice of both John Lennon and Freddie Mercury to show up on large screens like they were there. David Bowie has less excuse for tardiness and the feeling that he was going to trundle in on a lorry as `Fashion` blared out was, monetarily, palpable. But he didn’t; instead underneath the covers were a bevy of supermodels and some bloke nobody knew wearing a suit. I suppose Mr B was busy feeding the fish. As for Blur, they were literally in the vicinity playing their own concert so instead we had `Park Life` played by a marching band which actually worked rather well.
George Michael knows how to get a crowd going with an old favourite and then baffle them with a new song that sounds nowhere near as good. They should have given Annie Lennox two songs; she built a ship especially for goodness sake! What did George do? He grew a walrus beard.
Jessie J. Say what you like about Britain’s premier mainstream songstress who isn’t called Adele but Jessie worked hard, in one of the most effective sequences trio-etting with Taio Criz and Tinie Tempah, other oddly named singers. Then she came back to rescue us from Brian May’s guitaring overload and becomes the 100th singer to join Queen on stage in the last twenty years. `We Will Rock You` they performed. Not for too long, we hoped.
Muse are made for this sort of occasion so how come they only got one song? Faced with such a time limit they just packed a whole concert’s worth of energetic bombast and should have been the show closers really. Who knew then we still had hours to go.
Oasis. Ooops, we mean Beady Eye. Wouldn’t you love to know what Noel Gallagher had to say when his estranged brother turned up singing his best known song like it was his. And doing it out of tune as well. Basically he sounded like Frank Sidebottom!
Ed Sheehan. Probably Noel’s rant would be nothing compared to the ire of Roger Waters as he watched Pink Floyd’s `Wish You Were Here` sung by young Ed. Mind you he’d probably prefer anything to Dave Gilmour getting up there and singing it. This must be the most curious temporary supergroup ever assembled with Ed backed by genuine Floyd drummer Nick Mason, former prog rival Mike Rutherford and The Feeling’s Richard Jones (aka Mr Sophie Ellis Bextor).
Russell Brand. Such was the dearth of singers able or willing to participate that the organisers had to resort to comedians later on. Russell B made a fair old do of The Beatles before his bus turned into an octopus from which Fatboy Slim rose. Er, did that really actually happen? Well it was very late by now.
Yes, they can still zig-a-zig-ah
Ha, you think, now anything could occur. Anything except someone from Monty Python pretending to be fired out of a cannon before launching into `Always Look on the Bright Side of Life`. Somehow it worked and we can only salute the great Eric Idle.
The Who. The most famous group whose songs the general public don’t know, The Who have been a quandary for decades and they rounded off the musical section but put rather more effort in than Paul McCartney did in the opener. Huffing and puffing like old prize fighters, Rog and Pete made their back catalogue sound dramatic.
And that was it. The cauldron was unlit in reverse, some people made speeches and athletes sent messages to the world via their phones. In truth, this closing ceremony never stood a chance after the Games themselves and the way they opened but for all its scrappy, chaotic content and over reaching ambition it did the job. It was packed, confusing and often bizarre. Kind of like London itself.


 

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