Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rocking the Nation by Royal Command; Jubilation.The Pop Concert

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rocking the Nation by Royal Command; Jubilation.The Pop Concert

Article excerpt

WHATEVER our current standing in the international league table of global achievement, there is no doubt that this country has mastered the art of the massive pop concert like no other. The Queen's Golden Jubilee may not, on the face of it, have been the most obvious excuse to break out the electric guitars, but the opportunity to get the nation rocking by royal command was seized with some aplomb. The first stroke of genius was to set the event in the biggest secret garden we know. It was worth the occasional longueur just to catch a glimpse of a patch of lush greenery previously only hinted at by the tops of its tallest trees. There was even a lake, although unlike ordinary pop concerts, it was not churning with the antics of naked revellers who had got too far in touch with their inner selves.

Indeed, this very ordered calm threatened to undo the concert in the early stages. The stage had its full complement of giant video screens, gleaming drum kits and a thousand metres of cables, but it was quite a distance from the audience, and that distance was never likely to be converted into an impromptu mosh pit, even with the appearance of Ozzy Osbourne.

The real battle, staging aside, was between the old and new orders of British pop. Given that the event took place under the royal umbrella, it is not too fanciful to suggest that here was a microcosm of the disintegration of Empire. On the one hand, it was a celebration of former glories, a time when Britain ruled the world of popular music. On the other, it was a stark depiction of the depths to which we have sunk, a new generation incapable of maintaining our hold over the rest of the world. It was, in the final analysis, men versus boys.

A grave impediment to the outbreak of untrammelled joy was the nature of the opening acts. For anyone who is interested in why British pop is having a lean time at the moment, the answer was skipping gauchely all over the stage.

The likes of S Club 7, Blue and Misteeq have a place in this world and that is to ween very young people off nursery rhymes so they may proceed to higher things.

Outside the tight choreography of their dance routines, and the unchallenging nature of their songs, these performers were cruelly exposed.

Watching them damage the peerless Tamla Motown song catalogue, while flapping around like wounded wildfowl, was pitiful. Prince Philip with a shotgun would have been most welcome.

Gradually, however, the event began to take the shape of a special occasion rather than an excuse to show off in front of a captive audience. Queen were the catalyst for a change of tone. Even without Freddie Mercury to sing them, these songs have the power to annihilate distance in large spaces, creating a community out of a large group of individuals. …

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