Britain’s got talent

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Yesterday evening I thought I should check out the much-heralded Jubilee concert, screened live on the BBC (thankfully without the usual help of ‘witty’ commentators).

In fact, despite my initial indifference, I ended up watching the entire 3 ¼ hour event, warts and all. There was something peculiarly compelling about it.

The concert was the brainchild of Gary Barlow (hasn’t he come a long way since Take That?..arise Sir Gary?) and featured a wide variety of largely British perfomers, strutting their stuff on a giant stage outside Buckingham Palace.

As with any event of this scale and ambition, some bits worked better than others. That said, even the less successful bits somehow added to its overall authenticity. Besides, if it all went off without a hitch, somehow it wouldn’t quite be British.

So, just in case you are interested, here are five of my own personal highlights and lowlights from the Queen’s very own backyard concert.

First the lowlights, in no particular order:

Will.i.am – he seems to be everywhere at the moment – judge on The Voice, tweeting torch relay runner in Taunton (huh?), arriving at a climate change conference by helicopter (yes, seriously), but I’m afraid I just don’t get him.

To me, he talks gibberish and can’t sing (“Sorry Will mate – a bit pitchy there”). Definitely not a ‘dope’ performance and he badly needed Jessie J to dig him out of a right royal hole in their duet.

Miranda Hart – having been away a while, I’m at a disadvantage here in not having a clue who she is. Viewed therefore with a fresh set of eyes she came across as very posh, very try-hard and very unfunny.

Grace Jones – in a word, ‘scary’. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to invite Grace along in full S&M gear and then suggest she hula hoops her way through an entire song. Admirable ab-control, but plain weird. I reckon no-one had the guts to tell her she wasn’t invited – well would you stick your hand up to do it?

Annie Lennoxangel wings are a good idea at a 5 year old girl’s birthday party, but that is where they should remain. What was she thinking?

Lenny Henry – spoiled an otherwise quite amusing performance with shoddy treatment of Rolf Harris, first calling him on stage to sing a song to fill in a couple of minutes, but then cutting him off mid-song, just as the audience was getting into his rendition of ‘Two Little Boys’. You could have waited a minute longer Lenny – we were not amused.

And my personal highlights…

The knights of the realm – in all, I counted four ‘sirs’ on stage during the concert. Cliff Richard was ok in a botoxy kind of way; Tom Jones was excellent – what a voice and what a performer; Elton John was also great – a lovely version of Your Song and perhaps wisely, no ‘Candle in the wind’; Finally, Paul McCartney showed that he still has it, although finishing up the whole night with ‘Ob la di’ was a bit of a strange song choice, given the option of other sing-a-long classics like ‘Hey Jude’.

Madness – performing from the roof of Buckingham Palace while giant images were projected onto the building. Looked spectacular and sounded great as they played through ‘It must be love’ and ‘Our House’ (“…in the middle of one’s street”). Nutty.

Rob Brydon – by far the best compere on the night, smooth, amusing, a bit risqué at times, but all in such a disarming way that you couldn’t help but warm to him.

The crowd – swathed in union jacks and stretching right up Pall Mall in their tens of thousands, they seemed to be loving the whole spectacle and certainly played their part in creating a party atmosphere that bodes well for the upcoming Olympics.

The finale – the concert ended with all the artists and the Royals on stage (including HM) where Prince Charles gave a surprisingly excellent speech, both respectful and amusing in equal doses. Almost King-like, some would say.

And Charles was swiftly followed by the Queen’s lighting of a beacon, a rousing chorus of God save the Queen and a spectacular fireworks & laser show over the Palace.

Plenty more highlights that I can’t quite fit in to my rather rigid ‘top 5’ – Ed Sheeran (great performance, but had the vetting committee understood the storyline behind “the A-team”), Shirley Bassey, Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams‘ spectacular opening number, Stevie Wonder… the list goes on.

I’m sure that there will be some who try to pour cold water on the event, but from where I sat, and hundreds of thousands of others stood, it seemed like a feel-good triumph.

Something very British and something to be very proud of.

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