BT London Live Opening Ceremony Celebration Concert review

'The flags are out in force'

BT London Live Opening Ceremony Celebration Concert review

Photographer:Mark Holloway

Chris Eustace - 28 July 2012

You’d think from the way some have been talking that London was more into grumbling about the Olympics than celebrating them, but on Opening Ceremony day, the mob descending on a woodchipped Hyde Park for BT’s celebration concert suggest otherwise. With musical representatives of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland here tonight, the flags are out in force.  

It’s the perma-smiley Paolo Nutini (7.5/10) that gets things started with the reggae-ish bounce of ‘10/10’. With a big crowd already in nice and early for him, he continues with a driving ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’ and things are looking, and sounding, good. Unfortunately, three slow songs in a row sees the crooner lose a bit of momentum, no matter how atmospheric and tender the likes of ‘Growing Up Beside You’ are.

The morning after stroll of ‘Coming Up Easy’ picks up the mood, and finally, with its stomping Northern Soul climax, the pace. “Rain come tumbling down”, however, is not a sentiment Hyde Park needs to hear with the clouds overhead looking ominous.

The ragtime rush of ‘Pencil Full Of Lead’ turns the park into a Disney singalong before ‘Candy’ finishes the set. At first, such restrained balladeering seems like an odd choice to end with, but as it builds to a Neil Young-esque crescendo, showing off Nutini’s impressive rasp in the process, it pays off handsomely.

Eyebrows were raised when Duran Duran (7/10) were announced as England’s representative for the concert, but actually, it kind of works. Simon Le Bon make look worryingly like Ricky Gervais these days, and his Union Jack blazer makes some of his 80’s choices look like great fashion ideas, but in their old-school flamboyance, they have something none of the other acts here can bring to the stage tonight.

Starting with ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘A View To A Kill’, it’s clear that a decent slice of this audience is ready for a bit of nostalgia, and perhaps that was the thinking all along. The heavens may open briefly during 'All You Need Is Now’, but the rain respectfully leaves in time for a spectacular Red Arrows flypast during ‘The Reflex’, leaving red, white and blue trails in the sky.

Perhaps the band feel upstaged, but they seem to lose their way for a bit, ‘Notorious’ in particular sounding very thin, but a superb version of ‘Ordinary World’ gets things back on track, and it’s an easy win all the way from there, with a rave-kissed ‘Sunrise’ outing the band, Jeremy Kyle-style, as Friendly Fires’ dads.

‘Wild Boys’, unlike Le Bon’s jacket, is ridiculous in a good way, and a closing ‘Rio’ has everyone dancing like they’ve been catapaulted into an 80’s wine bar – with suit jacket sleeves rolled up, of course.

We’re then treated to most of the spectacular Opening Ceremony on the big screen, and with Hyde Park fully immersed in it (The Queen parachuting with James Bond was a big favourite) there’s almost a feeling of disappointment when, after Emeli Sande’s rendition of ‘Abide With Me’, the feed cuts off as Stereophonics (6/10) take to the stage.

It’s a difficult one for them – they start well enough with a rollicking ‘The Bartender And The Thief’, and ‘A Thousand Trees’ has everyone with them early on, but you end up wondering where that band went, as they descend into the lame faux-rawk of ‘Superman’ and ‘She’s Alright’.

It doesn’t help that the wind begins to whip the sound around the bit, but that doesn’t excuse a flat ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ or the unwelcome return of the whinging dirge that is ‘Mr Writer’. The band are pretty static onstage, and with Kelly Jones’ stage patter confined to the odd “let me hear you!” (he does apologise for “not speaking much” later on however), it means large swathes of the crowd clearly feel disconnected from their show.

There are plus points though – ‘Just Looking’ has grown into a more-than-decent stadium rock song, and they’ll always have ‘Dakota’ to save the day, the band finally grabbing everyone’s attention as it powers into an Olympic-style sprint finish.

Some people may lump Stereophonics and tonight’s headliners into the same category, but the differences are soon made very obvious here, as Snow Patrol (8.5/10) once again prove masters of the communal singalong, with a perfectly judged ‘Take Back The City’ starting things off right.

It’s anthems all the way with ‘Open Your Eyes’ and ‘Crack The Shutters’ next up, with Gary Lightbody frantically gesturing and cajoling the audience one minute, then charming them by wryly quipping “This song was made famous by Leona Lewis!” before a tumultuous ‘Run’.

‘This Isn’t Everything You Are’ is a bit underrated in the lighters/phones out stakes, but here it’s another fine example of the band’s ability to make the heartfelt sound easy. Talking of which, someone has found the only way to make ‘Chasing Cars’ even more seismic – here the band start it up as the video screens cut to Team GB making their way into the Olympic Stadium.

‘Chocolate’, ‘Called Out Into The Dark’ and a danceable ‘Just Say Yes’ follow to end an impressive headline spot, and as the screens go back to East London to show the lighting of the Olympic cauldron to rapturous Hyde Park cheers, there probably wasn’t a more appropriate band to soundtrack London casting off the last of its Olympicynicism.

BT London Live hosts free events, including live music, during the Olympics in Hyde Park and Victoria Park from 27 July - 11 August, before moving to Trafalgar Square for the Paralympics from 29 August - 9 September. Click here for more details.


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