From Olympic Stadium to Hyde Park, it was all a Blur at the end
BRIAN BOYDon music
ONE NIGHT, two tickets, an Oyster card and a swift pair of legs. That was last Sunday in London. Two musical spectaculars took place almost simultaneously, and if you were fleet of foot you could take in both.
With the grandiosely titled A Symphony of British Music (aka the Olympic Games closing ceremony) kicking off at the Olympic Stadium at 9pm and the rival event, Blur’s Olympic Closing Ceremony Celebration Concert, beginning at 9.30pm in Hyde Park (for the headliners), it was a tight squeeze. East End bop and West End gig.
Between Hyde Park and the Olympic Park, you could take in the good, the bad and the ugly of modern music – not to mention the great, the wojous, the maudlin, the inappropriate, the melodramatic and the triumphant. The Specials and New Order did the opening honours for Blur in the West End, while out east it was a Now That’s What I Call Classic British Music album brought to life.
If at times you forgot which venue was which and who was singing what, and found yourself ruing missed opportunities elsewhere, it was understandable, as never before has so much music been played in such a short (two- hours-plus) period of time.
Why the two shows couldn’t have been melded together – the Hyde Park performers could have slotted seamlessly into the Olympic Park line-up – is a moot point, but you really did get a sense of the musical chaos on the night when you started off watching live action in Stratford only to continue watching it on a big screen on arrival in Hyde Park.
Madness – a big singalong hit on the screens in Hyde Park – were unceremoniously cut off mid-performance as Blur hit the stage with Girls and Boys. The sense of disjunction was only heightened by the karaoke version of Parklife that was being belted out in Stratford as the real thing was being played a 30-minute-or- so Tube ride away.
You might have reasonably assumed before the gigs that the Olympic event would be the cheesier of the two, what with the tuneless fishwives who go under the name The Spice Girls, and Ed Sheeran (who surely can’t be more than 12 years of age) having a most unfortunate go at Wish You Were Here.
Incidentally, such is the musical knowledge among Ed Sheeran fans that many tweeted about Ed’s great new song (ie Wish You Were Here), how much he has improved as a songwriter and how they hoped his “new” song would be on his next album.
But it was the Blur gig that won in the melodrama stakes. Though they have now notched up more “last-ever” gigs than Frank Sinatra, the emotion was clearly visible on the faces of Albarn co as they shook, rattled and rolled through Song 2, Under the Westway, This Is a Low and tear- drenched closer The Universal.
Indie kids, old and young, were crying and hugging and rejoinders of “best gig ever!” followed you out of the Park. Then it was on to a nearby hostelry to catch The Who bringing their maximum r’n’b to proceedings on the other side of the city.
With Emeli Sandé (singing at both the opening and closing ceremonies) perhaps getting more out of the games than Jessica Ennis, and with an event that featured the most musical performances in Olympic history, you really got a sense of how London had woven its musical magic into the sporting extravaganza.
From The Clash to The Spice Girls to One Direction to Kate Bush (in spirit only, sadly), this was the best of musical times and the worst of musical times. Stand by for the upcoming The Best Olympic Music Album in the World – Ever! and say goodbye to Blur, at least until their next “last-ever” concert.
Sometimes you just need a jolt of a reminder of the unheralded pop genius of ELO. How good did Mr Blue Skies sound last Sunday night in Stratford?
George Michael temporarily wrecked the feelgood buzz at Olympic Park by premiering his new single. Not what the show was all about, George.