The Carnival is Over – Olympic closing ceremony

0

Normally the Riot Squad wouldn’t be having much to do with sporting events, but we’re willing to make an exception in this case because of the cultural significance of this event (and its sibling the opening ceremony).  This was billed as an event with a playlist which was more Heart FM than Radio 1 and that description was pretty much on the money.  We got performances from British pop legends Ray Davies, Madness, Pet Shop Boys, Annie Lennox (in a piece which was a bit like a live version of a bad Duran Duran video), Queen (half of them in person, Freddie on film), Take That (with one notable exception), the Spice Girls (all of them) and The Who (well, Daltrey and Townshend).

We also got a pretty varied selection of newer artists covering a pretty wide spectrum of current British popular music.  How about Emeli Sandé, One Direction, Elbow, George Michael, Kaiser Chiefs, Ed Sheeran, Fatboy Slim, Jessie J, Tinie Tempah, Taio Cruz, Beady Eye and Muse? It’s not comprehensive, but it did give a pretty good snapshot of the contemporary British music scene.

Any attempt to summarise British popular culture over the last fifty years in three hours is pretty much doomed to failure from the start, but this was a brave attempt.  And it wasn’t just about the music; we had fashion, comedy, dance and drama as well.  We also had the unsavoury spectacle of politicians trying to hijack the event for their own ends, and we really don’t need to see the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London idiot-dancing to the Spice Girls to boost their credibility with the voting public.  Honestly, we’re not as stupid as you seem to think we are (and we didn’t see you strutting your stuff to the bhangra or disco material either, so not so inclusive at all really).  And we had Matt Bellamy fronting Muse in his usual quiet style with keyboard and guitar virtuosity only to be trumped by Brian May with a routine which he’s been doing for the best part of 40 years (although not always with Jessie J to front it).

The event ended with a Who medley (you can make up your own punchlines about growing old here) and it was all over for another four years; apart from the online feedback and some of that was pretty horrific, particularly the posts about Gary Barlow.  We can all have our own opinions about the worth of someone’s work (and for what it’s worth, I think Gary Barlow’s a really gifted songwriter) but it’s never acceptable, under any circumstances, to attack a performer because they’ve suffered a personal tragedy.  I’m not going to attempt to communicate my disgust to you because Jason Manford has already done that in a way that won’t be bettered.  Those personal attacks left a bitter taste after a hugely celebratory event.

It’s interesting to look at the Beatles influence on the opening and closing ceremonies; the opening ceremony was influenced by McCartney, while the closing ceremony was influenced by Lennon, but we didn’t hear the best work of either songwriter (apart from fleeting references to “A Day in the Life” in the closing ceremony).

It seems quite fitting to bookend the London Olympic Games with those two British pop legendOn balance, the closing ceremony was a brave attempt to capture fifty years of British of British popular culture which worked most of the time and, when it didn’t, it failed heroically.  And as an added bonus, most of the artists involved in the ceremony performed really well in this week’s singles charts, even those that didn’t appear personally.  It seems that there are some things that we Brits are really quite good at.