Monday, August 13, 2012


As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I was extremely surprised by how good the Olympics Opening Ceremony was. I was also somewhat shocked at just how well Team GM did at the games themselves. They excelled themselves, winning huge numbers of medals, and really improving the mood of the country.

It was bizarre. It was almost as if the country had taken a two-week holiday from its usual mediocrity.

In which case, last night's Closing Ceremony was the clearest possible indication that the holiday is over, and it's time to go back to things being rather pants.

I must admit, though, I was really impressed. When talking about it earlier in the day, I jokingly said that there could be worse things than the Spice Girls performing... only to admit that, no, there couldn't. That truly was the nadir, below which nothing worse was possible.

Turns out that I was wrong, a point made very, very clearly when Russell Brand came on. Dear oh dear.

Anyway, the Spice Girls were on, and they were just as awful as expected. I particularly liked the way they were miming, badly, and they hadn't bothered to get a good recording to use. It was almost as if they were being intentionally awful.

And despite this, worse was to come...

I have a certain amount of respect for Brian May and Roger Taylor for trying to soldier on with Queen despite the loss of their friend. Unfortunately, all they've achieved is to demonstrate that Freddie Mercury truly is irreplaceable. With the sole exception of their collaboration with George Michael, every "guest star" they have had since has resulted in the desecration of one of their classics. And last night's collaboration with Jessie J was no exception.

Actually, I suspect that's inevitable. When doing a cover version, you will always be compared with the original, and the better the original the harsher the criticism. That's why, when doing a cover version, you should always choose a song that had potential but where the original actually sucked, or something that was good but obscure. But under no circumstances should you attempt to cover something by Queen, because you're just not Freddie Mercury.

But the worst thing about that was not that the performance was woeful. The worst thing was that it was utterly unnecessary. Virutally nobody was performing live (including, I think, Brian May himself) - they were all performing to pre-recorded tracks. Which is fine - when the audience numbers in the billions, it takes nerves of steel to play live (if they even had that option).

However... if the vocals aren't live anyway, then Queen didn't need a "guest star" - just use footage of Freddie from when Queen were in concert. It's not like they didn't have it - they played such footage immediately before Queen took to the stage, as if to taunt us with what we were missing. ("Let's see what you could have won!")

But then, the organisers were already facing the problem that the highlight of their celebration of British music had come from Eric Idle, a comedian rather than a musician. Perhaps they felt it would have just been too much of a damning indictment to let a 20-year-dead icon steal the show.

Still, this has given a great idea to send to the BBC: they should do a 'talent' show in which Andrew Lloyd Webber leads the search for a singer/singwriter to create a new, more appropriate National Anthem for the country - a cheesy-pop number encapsulating that most British of themes, "we're a bit shit really, but we do our best".

(Oh, and yes, I did indeed just say that the performance by Queen was worse than the Spice Girls. Because the Spice Girls were no more awful than was always expected, but Queen's performance was an outright assault on something that should be awesome.)


Chris said...

If I was a cynical person, I would say that by 'Team GM' you mean China.

Steph/ven said...

Nah. China did exactly as well as I expected.