After Big Ben chimed, the ceremony had officially begun, and after hints of The Who in the background, the stadium settled and Britain’s current darling, Emili Sande provided a sombre opening with ‘Read All About It’ standing on a newspaper-covered truck. Her performance was fair, her vocals wobbled in places, but it was overall a steady performance by the Scot, which presumably filled the role Adele rumoured to turn down.
The London Symphony Orchestra were conducted by Julian Lloyd Webber, played beneath a re-imagined Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall), as everything got noisy with some assistance from STOMP. This was followed by the first of three national anthems, ‘God Save The Queen’.
WATCH // 'Read All About It'
Rodney and Del Boy opened the next section, which saw Madness and the Hackney Colliery Band perform ‘Our House’. So far an intriguing start, but more to do with the early production work, not the choice of music. The Camden-town ska band are heroes in Britain, but only had limited success in the US and down-under. An orchestrated version of ‘Parklife’ was brilliantly arranged and brilliantly merged with Pet Shop Boys another dubiously chosen band, playing their best song ‘West End Girls’, an obvious homage to the host city. So far “the best” of British music had been selected from the 80s, the worst musical decade since pop music was established.
Much to the horror and disdain of much of the snobby music audience, One Direction pulled up on the back of a truck “singing” their monster hit, ‘You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful’. The teenagers performed well, but many tweeters questioned whether they were singing in time and suggested miming. This may have partly been due to the loudness of the backing track but it wouldn’t be the first performance to conjure up accusations.
WATCH // 'What Makes You Beautiful'
Some more brilliant work by STOMP and the amazing volunteers that joined in, then some wonderful visual displays by Spelbound as The Beatles first selection is played, before Ray Davies sang his “love song to London”, ‘Waterloo Sunset’. The elderly pop legend put together a moving sing-a-long in the “Sha-la-la” chorus sections, perhaps to save his slightly wavering voice.
Emili Sande reprised ‘Read All About It’ over images of some of London 2012’s sporting heartbreaks and failures, singing a bit more confidently than her earlier performance.
While the flags and athletes entered, Elbow returned to the Olympic stage after being played everywhere during Beijing 2008. The choral choir of Urban Voices Collective and the London Symphony Orchestra supported the band. Elbow may be the best stadium performing band since Queen, the control and majesty they put in to oversized performances is unparalleled by many successful, post-millennium artists.
WATCH // 'Running Up That Hill'
A collection of Dhol drummers played in the build up to Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’, despite no sign of the singer performing in person. This preceded the traditional inclusion of the Olympic Marathon award ceremony, featuring the Ugandan national anthem, a proud moment for Stephen Kiprotich who won gold.
The Urban Voices Collective sang ‘Hear Comes the Sun’, the backing track to a volunteer awards ceremony, another nod to The Beatles in “the best” collection of British music. A re-mastering of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ followed this from Yoko Ono and the volunteers constructed his face to rapturous applause.
George Michael looked in good health and gave a dominant performance of ‘Freedom’ but came under some criticism by commentators, not through any fault of his own. A second track he performed is his brand new single ‘White Light’; some saw this as a free advert for his track on the non-advertorial BBC. The song ended up being the only unreleased song performed at the Olympic Closing Ceremony
As the camera panned over to Kaiser Chiefs who would perform The Who’s ‘Pinball Wizard’, there was a teasing montage of David Bowie tracks, which ultimately excited and disappointed viewers as the closing ceremony continued to display a wish-list of artists it failed to secure for live performances. The roulette wheel of Bowie songs landed on ‘Fashion’ as some of Britain’s greatest fashion designers were sent down the world’s biggest catwalk to meet in the centre of the Union Jack stage.
The most gregarious entrance of the night award belonged to Annie Lennox, who always seems to turn up at these types of events. Her arrival is often supported by groans but she provides a highlight to any show, and her entrance as the masthead on a ghost ship didn't falter.
It was rumoured after the Olympic Opening Ceremony that Ed Sheeran would perform with Pink Floyd, but only one member turned up. Drummer Nick Mason backed Sheeran as they played ‘Wish You Were Here’ with Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford and bassist from The Feeling, Richard Jones. The Floyd-heads didn’t take kindly to this collaboration but the song was performed successfully and sounded fresh.
The most surprising musical inclusion was undoubtedly Russell Brand’s version of ‘Pure Imagination’ from the Willy Wonka musical, and ‘I Am the Walrus’ originally by The Beatles. Despite producing a brilliant performance, Brand’s voice was run through an effects mill, and his lack of visible microphone led to cries of miming, but the comedian introduced one of the world’s greatest, and quickly aging DJs. Fatboy Slim performed ‘Right Here, Right Now’ and ‘Right About Now’ from the centre of an octopus, with some Dad–inspired dance moves and stayed on stage to support Jessie J, Tinie Tempah and Taio Cruz.
WATCH // 'Right Here, Right Now'
Jessie J typically came under fire on the Twittersphere, particularly as she told to the audience to “SING” ‘Price Tag’. If a plumber had shouted to you to “PLUMB”, you’d be disappointed in his work. Tinie got a crowd pop from giving a shout out to “TEAM GB” proving he has grown accustom to performing in front of large audiences.
The centre of the Union Jack then cleared as London black cabs sped around the stadium with five particularly pimped out vehicles merging in the middle of the arena. Out stepped The Spice Girls who all looked rather stupendous and performed with their brilliance the world expects from them. They stood atop the taxis performing ‘Spice Up Your Life’ and ‘Wannabe’, lifting the party to another level.
Beady Eye played an Oasis song with many pundits wondering, if The Spice Girls could, why Liam Gallagher couldn’t convince his brother Noel to reunite for one performance. The world sang along as the 90s classic continued to churn out.
WATCH // 'Bright Side Of Life'
In a side step away from the Symphony of British Music, the show appeared to be returning to a more theatrical setting with The Beatles providing background music to what was hopefully going to be a brilliant human canon display. After the giant canon misfired the man inside slid out of the front, only to reappear as Eric Idle, one of the most famous comedians and former Python. The talent began singing his classic ‘Always look on the bright side of life’. Sexy angels appeared followed by Morris dancers, Welsh women, and skating nuns. All of a sudden the world’s greatest show started to look entirely bonkers, many people started to wonder if the whole Olympics was a precursor to a Monty Python punch line. You wouldn’t put it past them. Idle was joined by Bhangra dancers and attempted to join in the dancing before returning for a final chorus, with what seemed like the whole world singing along.
WATCH // 'Day-O'
Muse reintroduced the audience to British music as the theatrical performers played their official Olympic song before a tele-visual image of Freddie Mercury ignited the crowd with ‘Day-O’ before the remaining members of Queen blasted out the original stadium anthem ‘We Will Rock You’ featuring a returning Jessie J. Many condemned this choice, with American tweeters wondering what the British obsession is with the female singer, but Jessie stood up well next to the might of the song, which is made for extrovert performers.
The brilliant selection of the London Welsh Male Voice Choir and the London Welsh Rugby Club Choir sang the ‘Olympic Hymn’ as the official flag was lowered and removed from the stadium as part of the typical ritual, which included the handover of the games to Rio and Brazil’s national anthem.
Rio offered a better introduction than Britain attempted 4 years ago in Beijing. Renato Sorriso introduced the world to samba dancing, along with dozens of other Brazilian cultures and celebrities. The London 2012 Olympics will be tough to beat, but the colour and passion of Rio 2016 should provide a unique and flavourful difference. Either way this teaser was certainly more inventive than David Beckham kicking a football off the top of a London bus in 2008.
Lord Sebastian Coe then gave his closing speech with Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president.
As the official flame was extinguished, Take That took to the stage, with many commending Gary Barlow for a brave, professional performance following a personal tragedy earlier in the week. The man-band gave a strong performance, if a little excitable at times.
WATCH // 'Live at the Super Bowl'
A beautiful ballet performance built up the headline act. The Who showed the world why they are, despite being without two original members for many years, still a band to be reckoned with during a live performance. The opening keyboards of ‘Baba O’Riley’ tickled around the stadium and detonated when the famous three chords struck through the atmosphere. Many cited the aging rockers performance as the highlight of the evening as they meshed together favourites from their back catalogue ‘See Me, Feel Me’, ‘Listening To You’ and ‘My Generation’, in reference to the hopes that these Olympic Games will Inspire a Generation.
The show was a mixed bag; a great production, a phenomenal celebration but whether it offered “the best” of British music is certainly open for debate. Almost all artists gave performances that may prove to be the pinnacle of their career, you certainly saw the best of what was on offer but if the organisers could have secure the physical presence of Kate Bush, David Bowie and been imaginative with holograms of Freddie Mercury or The Beatles much in the same way Tupac was imagined at Coachella, that may have truly offered the best of British music.