I’m not one for big extravaganzas and over-the-top, choreographed productions. If the rock and roll is good, there’s no need for dancers, people flying around the arena on wires, lasers, explosions, fireworks and large props. Still, the closing ceremony to the 2012 Olympics in London was a killer show.
A lot of the artists that performed were not necessarily my cup of tea. I couldn’t even tell you who Jessie J. is, and I can’t remember the names of the hip-hop fellas that opened the show. But, until the Brazilians came out toward the end of the show, there wasn’t a performance that wasn’t at least palatable.
Was there too much Jessie J.? Probably. She had no business signing “We Will Rock You.” Why was Russell Brand, instead of a real singer, doing “I Am the Walrus”? The Who — or the TWho as a friend likes to call them — performing the concluding numbers were alright. But how did Roger Daltrey manage to mess up the words to “My Generation”? There’s no way he hasn’t sung that song at least a thousand times. Take That had no business closing out the show.
Those gripes aside, I loved the show. Here’s a little run down of the highlights for me:
- Imagine — It was great to see Mr. Lennon on the giant screen. Normally, I ignore that song, but seeing it put on like that was incredible. It was the first time that song has moved me in 20 years. And how cool was the 3D puzzle picture of John’s face? Fantastic!
- “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” — Whoever decided to fit that number in is a genius. What a fun performance. Eric Idle really is a master entertainer, even as an older gent. I smile everytime I think back to that piece. Wonderful!
- Freddie Mercury/Queen — The use of the clip of Freddie from an old Wembley Stadium show was super-cool. As if from the great beyond, he was participating with the audience. Brilliant. Brian May and Roger Taylor were great. Jessie J., as I said, really didn’t belong up there. [She is easy on the eyes, at least]
- Oasis…err…Beady Eye — Let’s face it: Liam’s voice isn’t what it was even 8 years ago. He’s so nasally and seems to have lost his vocal power. But, “Wonderwall” is still a brilliant song. It’s almost the unofficial British national anthem. I thought Liam and the band did a fine job and his voice was better than it’s been the last few times I’ve seen him perform.
- “Newspaper Taxis” — Ryan Seacrest, or one of the other members of the American broadcast team pointed out that the symbolism behind the newspaper-covered cars and trucks, as well as the newspaper-themed stage ramps, was a tip of the cap to England’s greatest writers. Sure, the little quotes in the newspapers on the stage were notable sayings of such people. But everyone missed the most obvious meaning beyond the newspaper theme: tribute to “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.” London’s known for its newspapers — fish wrap! — and its busy traffic. But where do you think the show’s producers got the idea to wrap motor vehicles in newspaper? C’mon, it’s obvious. The feature vehicle was also a taxi, in case you hadn’t noticed. Fun concept. The newspaper theme covered a wide spectrum of British cultural notes.
- The Spice Girls — Look, I was never a fan. But they’ve always been kind of fun. Twelve, 15 years past their heyday, they looked better than ever and performed admirably. I was worried they’d fly off the top of those fast-moving cars.
- Fat Boy Slim — Cool. Very cool. I only wish he’d done “Weapon of Choice.”
- I Am The Walrus — They nailed the feel of the song. It was a slick, made-for-the-stage update of this classic song. Russell Brand was a bit more of a circus ringmaster, a role that would fit better had they played “Magical Mystery Tour,” but the production was good overall. It had a Cirque du Soleil vibe that worked.
Generally, the show was great, not only because of the highlights, but because it was a near-perfect blend of classic, retro and new British rock and pop. George Michael, David Bowie, Pet Shop Boys, One Direction, Annie Lennox etc. — some of Britain’s most notable stars, young and old, were mixed together in a fine, cohesive stew. I don’t care for the younger acts, but they all did fine.
I’m glad we recorded this digitally. I might watch bits and pieces of it again in the coming weeks.
Way to go Britain!