Party at the Palace, music review: Concert a triumph – but where were genuinely stellar British stars? – The Telegraph

Brian May famously performed God Save the Queen on the roof of the Palace for the Golden Jubilee, 20 years ago
The sight of a giant 3D corgi floating above Buckingham Palace was not something I thought I’d ever see in my lifetime. The Platinum Jubilee Concert was fast moving and superbly staged, full of exuberant and committed performances, even if the tone was more blockbuster Royal Variety Show than sweeping summation of 70 years of glorious British pop.
Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne in the same year Britain got its first singles charts. Her reign has coincided with the explosive birth and ongoing evolution of a vibrant and world beating British pop culture. Although it may have had little impact on Her Majesty’s dress sense, she has presided over rock ‘n’ roll, reggae, punk, synth pop, techno, hip hop, trip hop, Britpop, garage and grime. To celebrate all this, we were treated to old romantics Duran Duran in enough make up to save the fashion industry performing dubiously sexist 80’s anthem Girls On Film whilst photos of our monarch were projected onto the palace.  
The staging was genuinely inventive, although it would probably have made much more sense on TV than in St James Mall, where even the view from the Royal Box was obscured by an inconvenient monument a previous regent had erected right in the sight line. 
Brian May famously performed God Save the Queen on the roof of the Palace for the Golden Jubilee, 20 years ago. At 74, he was back with what’s left of his band Queen playing for the same queen, but this time he only made it halfway up the Victoria Memorial. As the chords of We Will Rock You rang out, the guitarist rose on an elevator platform whilst massed drummers trooped out maintaining the military beat. American singer Adam Lambert, meanwhile, made an impressive stand in for the late Freddie Mercury whilst apparently dressed in the contents of a Persian furniture emporium.
It was an exciting start to proceedings, and there were more full-blooded performances to follow, including American soul singer Alicia Keys blasting out Girl On Fire whilst the Palace blazed in red, and Manchester rock band Elbow performing their multi-purpose anthem One Day Like This whilst Union Jacks waved all the way up the mall.
But there were also deeply cringeworthy moments. Dance troupe Diversity offered a celebration of British pop in the form of one of those terribly sincere rap poems that have become a staple of bank and supermarket TV ads. “British pop music what a story to tell / From Dusty Springfield to the Spice Girls and Adele” is a couplet unlikely to go down in literary history. And it begged the question, where were such superstars as the Spice Girls or Adele? 
Contemporary pop was represented by a couple of DJs and a host of plucky but second-tier singers such as Mabel, Mimi Webb, Ella Eyre, Steflon Don and Jack Newman delivering medleys of minor hits of the past decade. It says something that they were all upstaged by Eurovision runner-up Sam Ryder in Union Jack pyjamas. 
If it hadn’t been for American superstar Diana Ross stepping in to help maintain the special relationship, it would have been a distinctly underwhelming bill. George Ezra’s anthems are cheery enough but, let’s be honest, he’s effectively a poor man’s Ed Sheeran. So you have to wonder where was the usually inescapable Sheeran when Her Majesty’s booker came calling? Hold the knighthood.
With Sir Elton John projected onto the Palace (pictured above) for a touching but pre-recorded version of Your Song, his old rival Sir Rod Stewart was effectively the ranking veteran British star, parading boldly out with his hedgehog hairdo looking still like he’d applied gel in a wind tunnel. Never change, Sir Rod. Unfortunately one of our greatest vocalists was saddled with reluctantly performing Neil Diamond singalong Sweet Caroline. “The BBC made me do it,” proclaimed Sir Rod, disclaiming the song even before he murdered it. 
And I don’t want to cause further rifts in the Union, but there were no artists at all from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, which seems rather an unfortunate oversight. 
The fact that the Palace booker could not summon up a genuinely stellar bill of British pop stars probably speaks volumes about the monarchy’s still slightly uncool brand associations in the music world. 
Under such reduced circumstances, the delivery of such a bombastically dazzling concert has to be considered even more of a triumph.
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