Danny Boyle’s inspired Isles of Wonder ceremony which opened the London Olympics had a clearly defined theme and purpose – using music to celebrate the nation’s achievements and to restore Team GB’s standing in the world.
The only brief for the closing ceremony seemed to be that this so-called ‘Symphony of British Music’ should cobble together whatever performers they could get hold of to make an ‘aftershow party’ with a global impact.
Sadly, the vibrant choreography and state of the art lighting couldn’t mask the lack of genuine substance to Kim Gavin’s show. Lord Seb Coe saying beforehand that “it’s not anything desperately profound” turned out to be a massive understatement.
What was lost amid all this faux-nostalgia was the achievement of the athletes themselves who were shuffled into the stadium en masse to take their place in Damien Hirst’s gigantic union jack while Elbow sang a couple of songs that sounded more dirgey than celebratory. Once trapped in the arms of the stadium flag they were a captive audience to a show that all but ignored their efforts over the previous two weeks.
The BBC commentator made a half-hearted effort to equate the Spice Girls whizzing about on the top of Mini Coopers with the ‘girl power’ we have witnessed during the games but the video to Emeli Sandé’s ‘Read All About It’ was just about the only song that tried to link the lyrics with the event the ceremony was meant to be celebrating.
With all the vehicles on display it could have been mistaken for a motor show.
Running Up The Hill Backwards is unlikely to be adopted as an Olympics sport and playing the track only served to highlight the non-appearance of camera-shy Kate Bush.
David Bowie was also conspicuous by his absence but was acknowledged by a rapid-fire montage of his hits culminating in Fashion accompanied by a superfluous parade of supermodels. If they had at least played Heroes this could have been given some Olympian edge.
Similarly, Queen’s We Are The Champions would surely have been a more appropriate choice than We Will Rock You (although if Jessie J had belted out the line ‘no time for losers’, this might not have gone down too well with those who missed out on medals).
Eric Idle’s unfunny Mr Bean moment for Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life was hardly the affirmative message the occasion needed and merited.
What was promoted beforehand as a dream playlist was more accurately labelled by Sam Leith, writing in the London Evening Standard, as “an Olympic playlist from hell”. Leith wrote that it resembled “the bit late on in a party when the drunkest person in the room takes control of the stereo”.
George Michael gave substance to the adage that anyone who wears sunglasses at night is a twat and allowing him space to promote his new single (White Light) was hardly entering into the altruistic spirit.
Liam Gallagher filching brother Noel’s Wonderwall and passing it off as a Beady Eye tune left a bad taste while Muse tried too hard (and failed) to convince that Survival had any merit as an official games song.
The Who at least had the good grace to omit the line “I hope I die before I get old” from My Generation but a croaky Ray Davies and the greying mane of Brian May had already done their bit to showcase the old men of rock and roll who, to quote from 10cc’s Old Wild Men, “came bearing music” and are now “over the hill and far away”.
Young pretenders playing old ‘classics’ was never likely to be any better than the real thing so Ed Sheeran (Wish You Were Here) and the Kaiser Chiefs (Pinball Wizard) were pissing in the wind here.
Beaming in the voices and images of John Lennon and Freddie Mercury had the curious effect of making dead heroes the stars of this pitiful spectacle.
George Michael criticised (Daily Telegraph)
Olympics Closing Ceremony The Complete Playlist (noise11.com)