Nick Mason helps Olympics Closing Ceremony celebrate British Music
Written by Matt
Sunday, 12 August 2012
The Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games was titled 'A Symphony of British Music', to celebrate the fact that music has been one of Britain's strongest cultural exports over the last 50 years. Costing £20 million to stage, the artists were paid a token £1 to appear, for contractual purposes. As a side note, the spectacular Opening Ceremony costing £27 million. For the upcoming Paralympics, the ceremonies will cost a combined total of £34 million.
With a cast of 4,100 performers, including 3,880 adult volunteers and 380 schoolchildren from the six London Olympic boroughs, and an estimated worldwide TV audience of one billion people, the production design was by a familiar name: Mark Fisher, responsible for Pink Floyd and Roger Waters stage design over the years, most recently for Roger's The Wall Live tour (using similar technology and design that he created for Pink Floyd's 1980/81 outing for The Wall).
The evening gave a whirlwind tour through some of the highlights of British music, and - as you'll see to the right, and below - as part of the second section of music (once the Parade Of Athletes had taken place), Nick Mason helped bring a Floydian touch to proceedings, drumming on a performance of Wish You Were Here...something that the singer had (in a departure from normal protocol) leaked in advance.
As a closing ceremony, it gave a mixture of expected elements - mandatory things that the International Olympic Committee stipulate must be present - and unexpected. In the first segment of the show, some of the imagery was typically a little odd or unexpected, such as the vehicles wrapped in newspaper. An exposure to the international stage of percussion troup Stomp should prove beneficial to their careers, and the two performances of Emile Sandé seemed a little odd. She's got a good enough voice, but is still pretty much a newcomer.
The event lacked the narrative thread of the opening ceremony, and certainly the main body of the event lacked the visual punch of what took place two weeks before, although overhead shots of the Olympic Stadium showed an impressive Union Flag taking up the entire "pitch" area. However, the thrust of the event was always going to be concentrated on the music.
A party atmosphere pervaded - seen in particular during the Parade Of Athletes, where the rigidity of the Opening Ceremony was swept away as celebrating participants (now able to let their hair down and relax after the pressure of the preceeding two weeks) formed the audience for the rest of the night, in what the organisers called "mosh pits" on the pitch whilst Elbow performed for their arrival.
To kick off the next section, "Here Comes The Sun", a pre-recorded Kate Bush and Running up That Hill confounded the rumours of a rare live appearance from her, as a 303-block pyramid was built in the centre (marking the 303 Olympic events), and highlights from the Games were screened.
Once the Marathon medal ceremony, and the recognition of the hard work and good humour of the many thousands of volunteers had taken place, the "Symphony of British Music" section started. With John Lennon on screen, singing Imagine along with a children's choir, the tone was set for a great hour of so of performances. The use of LED lightpads in front of each and every seat in the stadium enabled the whole place to be used as a giant videoscreen, which was stunning in execution.
After a couple of tracks from George Michael, Pinball Wizard by The Kaiser Chiefs, Little Bird by Annie Lennox, Ed Sheeran appeared with a slight touch of "rabbit caught in the headlights" in the eyes. Backed by Nick Mason, Mike Rutherford, and Richard Jones from The Feeling, they performed a nice version of Wish You Were Here, whilst a man on a tightrope crossed the heights of the stadium until he met a mannequin, ablaze, shaking his hand in a recreation of the Wish You Were Here cover shot. Scroll down to see video of the performance.
As selections go, it seemed a little out of place amongst other songs performed, but nevertheless had a great reception from the 80,000 audience. Following on from this was Russell Brand, The Spice Girls, Fatboy Slim, the awful Jessie J, a very funny turn from Monty Python's Eric Idle, a slightly out of place Muse, and the reappearance of Jessie J to ruin We Will Rock You backed by Brian May and Roger Taylor from Queen.
As with any Closing Ceremony, part of it is given over to tradition - the Greek national anthem, the official handover to the next host city, which in this case is Rio De Janeiro (with a samba routine), and the closing of the Games with the extinguishing of the flames followed by the big finale.
During the Rio presentation, as legendary footballer Pele appeared, so did the first of the fireworks from the roof of the Olympic Stadium. A mere taster of what was to come. Following the speeches and praise for the games, and those volunteers who made a huge difference, the time came for the flame to be extinguished. With an unexpected appearance by Take That (the band's lead singer recently suffered a family tragedy) the cauldron opened, ready for the flame to go out, with a phoenix above. This was the cue for an appearance by legendary ballet dancer Darcy Bussell, who accompanied by a large dance troup, performed an elaborate if slightly hard to follow routine.
In fairly safe, reliable hands, the conclusion to the night, and the London Olympics, was entrusted to The Who. It was great to see them power through Teenage Wasteland, See Me, Hear Me/Listening To You (from "Tommy") and a very apt My Generation as the stadium became a mass of confetti and fireworks.
As someone who lives in Great Britain, I know first hand just how much impact the 2012 Olympics have had across the nation in various ways for some time now. The British trait was to expect it all to go a bit wrong, the Opening Ceremony having issues, transport being a nightmare, events to go wrong, but against national expectations the whole thing has been a huge success - the weather even was nice (the vast majority of the time) following an extended period of rain in the country.
The Closing Ceremony proved a fitting conclusion to a Games which promised to "Inspire A Generation". From the music, through to the fireworks, the Ceremony hopefully gave the world a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and one that will be remembered for many years. To come are the Paralympic Games, which should prove as notable and inspiring. Certainly, the venues will be packed as the British people have snapped up tickets, enthused by Olympic fever which has swept most of the nation, selling out most if not all of the events. They too will have Opening and Closing Ceremonies, but these will be on a smaller scale (and lesser global reach) than the Olympics themselves.