The bunting is coming down and the party is over – at least until that Torch arrives back in London at the end of July, or in the highly unlikely event of some success in Poland and Ukraine – and the general consensus is that the Jubilee went very well indeed. It may have rained, Prince Phillip may have succumbed to illness, but the nation’s mood was undoubtedly lifted by the extended weekend of events.
In terms of entertainment, the centrepiece was, of course, the concert in front of Buckingham Palace on Monday night, with an estimated 17 million viewers tuning in, and a 20,000-strong crowd in front and on the mall. The event was organised by the resurgent Gary Barlow, taking a break from X Factor duties to make a claim for a knighthood by enlisting the great and the good of British music with a few overseas guests thrown in for good measure. But opinion was divided on whether Gary got the calls right in terms of performers.
It was always going to be a tricky task – the event was the equivalent of a wedding DJ set, with the task of somehow pleasing a range of viewers aged eight to 80 – but there was a distinct feeling that Barlow played it safe. Reliable old-timers Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Shirley Bassey were drafted in to be the meat of the event and they didn’t disappoint, but there was a sense that we’d seen it all before, however excellent they were. The 80s were represented by Madness and Annie Lennox – again, both great acts, but not hugely relevant, with the 90s being taken care of by Kylie ‘n’ Robbie.
The ‘cutting edge’ acts, however, were the decidedly average Cheryl Cole, the decidedly beige Ed Sheeran and the decidedly-annoying Jessie J, and it certainly felt like the UK’s lively current scene was not adequately shown off to a huge TV audience – both domestic and worldwide. There were many valid cries for Adele, but she is already so established it would’ve felt like another McCartney was up there. Where were the likes of Labrinth & Tinie Tempah, Plan B, or even bands like Scotland’s Biffy Clyro – acts that like Queen at Live Aid 1985 were one big push away from erupting into huge acts.
A little more adventure from Barlow on the “new” acts would certainly have not gone amiss, and even if it hadn’t quite worked, he could always have justified it by way of “appealing to the kids”. Of course, perhaps age wasn’t the most important aspect and it was really the fault of the golden oldies for going through the motions a little; after all, the best performance of the night came from 64-year-old Grace Jones who was utterly mesmerising, hula-hooping her way through a powerful rendition of Slave to the Rhythm. A bit more Grace, a few more risks, and the event could’ve been amazing; as it was, Gary has still managed to do a good job and will no doubt be returning to the Palace again soon for an altogether more formal event.