Danny Boyle’s breath-taking opening ceremony was always going to be virtually impossible to beat. But it was still quite remarkable at just how much last night’s closing ceremony suffered in comparison.
Whereas the Slumdog Millionaire director’s spectacular was a vibrant, energetic and cinematic vision of Britain, its culture and its history, Stephen Daldry’s celebration was a stilted, dated and distinctly mediocre affair which felt more suited to the Royal Variety Performance than one of the world’s biggest events.
Indeed, while there were a few impressive visual touches, the choice of music left a lot to be desired. Emeli Sande must have some incriminating evidence on its organisers, having performed ‘Read All About It’ twice last night as well as warbling over the credits of BBC’s stellar coverage, a rather puzzling state of affairs considering she was a virtual unknown this time last year.
George Michael ruined all the goodwill his rendition of ‘Freedom’ earned by making the disastrous choice to sing his new single, ‘White Light,’ collaborations between Ed Sheeran & Pink Floyd and Queen & Jessie J failed to live up to expectations, while Russell Brand and Eric Idle’s attempts at musical humour felt hopelessly misguided.
Even some of Britain’s greatest pop songs felt strangely muted thanks to the poor sound and surprisingly unenthusiastic performances from Pet Shop Boys (‘West End Girls’) and Ray Davies (‘Waterloo Sunset’). Whilst the inclusion of Taio Cruz, possibly the most uncharismatic pop star Britain has ever produced, was an embarrassment as was Liam Gallagher’s virtual parody-like performance of ‘Wonderwall’ and Muse’s horribly overblown official anthem, ‘Survival.’
It wasn’t completely without merit. There probably wasn’t a dry eye left in Britain when Gary Barlow, who only this week had to deal with losing his unborn daughter, Poppy, bravely took to the stage to belt out an emotive rendition of ‘Rule The World‘; Spice Girls injected a much-needed sense of fun with a medley of ‘Wannabe‘ and ‘Spice Up Your Life’; whilst Elbow and Annie Lennox both acquitted themselves well.
But with rumoured appearances from David Bowie and Kate Bush failing to materialise and a generic playlist which appeared to have been borrowed from a Now That’s What I Call Music compilation, the closing ceremony ensured London 2012 finished with a rather anti-climactic whimper rather than the bang it deserved.