November 28, 2023

Critics applaud Olympic closing ceremony

The London Olympics closing ceremony, which featured music stars from The Who to The Spice Girls, has been broadly welcomed by the world’s critics.

According to The Guardian, the event was “a kaleidoscopic spectacle” that showed “the energy of British popular culture over the past few decades”.

The Telegraph said the show was “meant to be about cheese – an unabashed, honking hunk of over ripe Stilton”.

The UK TV audience for the ceremony peaked at 26.3 million, the BBC said.

Overnight figures suggest an average of 23.2 million people tuned in over the course of the three-hour spectacle.

That was slightly down on Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, which peaked at 26.9 million and attracted an average audience of 23.4 million, according to the BBC.

Many artists have seen a sales boost since the show, led by Elbow’s One Day Like This and Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush, which both went into the iTunes top 10.

Bush did not perform live as had been rumoured, but the song accompanied a dance routine and video montage. Writing on her website, Bush hailed it as a “brilliant” show.

The Telegraph’s music editor Bernadette McNulty wrote that the ceremony was “pitched somewhere between a wedding reception and tuning into Magic FM”.

Yet her review bemoaned the “obvious” absence of such “top-drawer” stars as Bush and David Bowie and said the event was “way too long”.

“This all-star mix of live and pre-recorded music was a major crowd-pleaser,” declared David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter, saying the event would be “regarded as a wonderfully chaotic treasure trove by some and a hot mess by others”.

The result, he continued, “echoed the fun, free-wheeling spirit and quirky humour established by director Danny Boyle in his divisive opening ceremony”.

The New Zealand Herald described the event at the Olympic Stadium in east London as “a pop culture smorgasbord that had touches of brilliance, beauty and bewilderment”.

Yet its critic Troy Rawhiti-Forbes expressed reservations about comedian Russell Brand’s “tuneless” contribution and George Michael’s performance of his new single White Light.

“If there had been remote controls here in the stadium people might have been reaching for them,” he suggested.

The Times critic Will Hodgkinson also bemoaned the “notable” absence of The Rolling Stones, Emeli Sande’s “underwhelming” rendition of Read All About It and Ray Davies’ “croaky” Waterloo Sunset.

Overall, though, Hodgkinson concluded that the “joyful and welcoming” occasion “celebrated a side of British life too often dismissed as frivolous”.

The Spice Girls performed for the first time in four years, while George Michael returned to the stage after almost dying of pneumonia last year.

Take That’s Gary Barlow appeared just a week after suffering the loss of his baby daughter, who was stillborn.

The Pet Shop Boys, Elbow, Jessie J and Monty Python star Eric Idle were among the other performers who took to a stage modelled on the Union Jack adorned with representations of familiar London landmarks.

Meanwhile, in Hyde Park in central London, a celebration concert took place featuring Blur, The Specials, New Order and Bombay Bicycle Club.

BBC 6 Music‘s Matt Everitt said singer Damon Albarn “reflected Olympic fever, diving into the crowd wide-eyed, holding up a Union Jack and doing what’s become known as ‘The Mobot'”.

The reunited Britpop veterans performed a mixture of celebratory anthems and low-key rarities, and were joined for Parklife by actor Phil Daniels and comedian Harry Enfield dressed as a tea lady.

Everitt added: “As for whether this will be Blur’s last gig, when the finale of The Universal drew to a close, a tearful Damon stood speechless until the very last minute, staring out over the crowd, before simply saying ‘Good night’ and wandering dazed offstage. And ‘Good night’ is very different to ‘Goodbye’.”

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