Closing Time

“If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.”

Monty Python

Well, the Olympics are officially over for another four years. The formalities are done, the flag passed, the youth of the world called to Rio 2016.

All this, of course, was accomplished in the Closing Ceremony, which is like the Opening Ceremony except shorter and more depressing. Huw Edwards described it as “a symphony of British music from the last 50 years.” 50 years? What happened to all those hundreds of years before that? Purcell, Britten, Elgar? Surely, surely they deserve recognition more than Tinie Tempah or even Muse?

At least there was Shakespeare. Wasn’t it wonderful to see TO BE OR NOT TO BE blaring out from the floor of the Olympic stadium? Not just Shakespeare, either: we had Ozymandias and Dylan Thomas (“Rage, rage against the dying of the light” – particularly appropriate given the Extinguishing Ceremony) doing a star turn.

And the singers. What a mixed bag. We started with Madness singing “Our House” badly. The problem is that all the favourites, the golden oldies, are, well, old. They can’t sing anymore. That is the simple fact.

On to a dribble of boy bands. One Direction, who forgot they were supposed to be singing and made faces at the camera instead. Pet Shop Boys, who sang something unbelievably dreary and inaudible and who, for some reason, were wearing Darth Vader-type costumes. Roy Davies, with “Waterloo Sunset”, which I did like, although I don’t think I’d ever heard it before, but it was lovely.

I can’t remember the exact order of the singers, but I’ll do my best. I do know that the Kaiser Chiefs appeared at one point.

Spice Girls, apparently enjoying themselves immensely but not singing very well. Is it just me, or were the acoustics in the stadium quite bad? I couldn’t hear what was being sung at several points in the show, but that could just have been the singers. I was amused to notice that the BBC caption read “The Spice Girls” instead of just “Spice Girls”. It makes the BBC sound like your grandmother. “Who are the Spice Girls, then, my dear?”

John Lennon singing “Imagine”. A rather controversial choice, one would think, given that the first line goes “Imagine there’s no heaven,” which to some people would be blasphemy. Has anyone heard of any complaints about that?

Tinie Tempah. Another rapper whose name I forget. Actually, I love the chorus of “Written In The Stars” – “Written in the stars/ A million miles away”, etc. – but I’m really not a rap person. Jessie J, who, to be fair, is very famous and actually sang a song with a meaning. Emeli Sande, who is an excellent singer. Jonathon Ross, who I’m not convinced was actually singing, apart from that first Willie Wonka bit.

Fatboy Slim. I’m not entirely sure what he actually did, since we can pretty safely assume that all the music had been pre-checked and therefore already chosen, so he can’t have been doing that much mixing on stage.

Next, someone on a flying bicycle…some randomer in a flight suit climbs into a cannon…there’s no chance Health and Safety will let them shoot someone out of a cannon, is there? Apparently, there is. Oh, no, the cannon didn’t fire and the person has fallen out and sticks his head up…and it’s Eric Idle singing “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” from Monty Python!! And the entire Olympic stadium is joining in! People from countries you’ve never even heard of are singing along: “Always look on the bright side of life/Do do, do do, do do do do do do”! And it’s just wonderful and you have to join in at home. That, for me, was the defining moment of the Olympics, the whole world joining together to celebrate humanity.

Then Brian May walks on with his guitar. A video of Freddie Mercury warming up the audience, who faithfully follow. Half of Queen begin playing and Jessie J is walking up in a long yellow train thing and oh my god Jessie J is going to sing Freddie Mercury. That song that goes boom-boom cha, boom-boom cha. “We Will Rock You.” And, again, the whole stadium joins in. And you know: This is Britain. This is what makes Britain. Comic songs and rock music. It’s brilliant.

Well, I’ve been going on a bit, and I’ve run out of time. So, remember: “always look on the bright side of life!”

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