Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Layer 539 . . . The Closing Ceremony - More Reviews

I'm still feeling baffled and unhappy about the Olympics closing ceremony, and how badly it reflected on Britain and on what had been a near-perfect two weeks of Olympic Games.

Michael Billington in the Guardian completely failed to get to grips with it in his review, and it may be that Michael is now past his sell-by date as a reviewer. Here's part of what he said:
How do you review an Olympics closing ceremony? I'm not sure you can, especially when it is a mix of pageant, pop-concert, street-party and presentation ceremony. Unlike Danny Boyle's opening ceremony, Kim Gavin's closing one had no hidden narrative but simply amounted to a kaleidoscopic spectacle based on what Gavin himself termed "a mashed-up symphony of British music".

I leave it others to judge whether the big musical section was a fair summary of British pop over the past 50 years. But it certainly produced some eye-catching moments including a reconstituted version of John Lennon singing Imagine, Kaiser Chiefs backed by an assembly of leather-clad bikers, Annie Lennox standing at the prow of a skeletal ship with Gothic attendants and the Spice Girls emerging from a fleet of London cabs. We even got a tribute to British fashion with Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and other supermodels clad in symbolic gold.
I'd almost forgotten that horrible interlude of British so-called supermodels strutting around the stadium after arriving on the backs of trucks. This was another pinnacle of flash and trash and celebrity-obsession.

Mr Billington might have been at a loss as to what to make of the whole debacle, but he was at least honest in saying he needed to leave it to others as he hadn't a clue himself about musical merit. Fortunately there were many Guardian commenters who were more than able to offer pithy comments 'below the line':

Three words: it was shit.

[Response to citizenx3]
Not sure it was that good to be honest.
I came away from the Olympics with the view that to be a modern Britain you have to either ride a bike really really fast or be in a pop band.

leather clad bikers??? mods on scooters, surely - couldn't have got it more wrong.

Of course you can review it - it was shit. From the revelation of equality and achievement we sank back into sexism, mediocrity, and money. The first image of a passive woman concocted for the sole pleasure of men was a shock after the beautiful androgyny of strength. Instead - an image of a beautiful woman you can only long for, while into the stadium rolls a luxury car you can only envy. The values of the Olympic games fell away, and never have the values of capitalism looked so thin and tawdry and obvious.

How do you review a show like this, asks the Guardian's tired old theater critic. How about you get someone who knows about pop and dance, as this was only ever going to be theater in the pejorative sense. It was appallingly bad and returned the image of "GB" to that of sad old camp "theater" living off of fading memories. Even what was supposed to be current and "happening" looked more tired that the truly old . . . And why, if you can't persuade nearly-dead defenders of their brand to risk tarnishing it with an appearance, or to get the dead to dance, embarrass us all with virtual or tribute contributions? Bowie by virtue of a corporate fashion show and The Who's Pinball Wizard via the Kaiser Chiefs doing a west end show version of that scene from Quadrophenia....pointless...and the whole thing. Lennon, disinterred for the evening, was possibly the only poignant lyrical contribution of the night, "Imagine there's no country," after an inter-national contest between fiercely patriotic gladiators for the last 2 weeks...that was fun, but then ending it with him as a Stalinesque face or giant cream cake, that was high camp . . . but if you ask the guy who is famous for working with Take That to choreograph a farewell from London you can't expect much else really, can you?

It was everything we feared the opening ceremony was going to be: Naff music, excruciating faux 'celebrity' appearances, terrible lip-syncing (and some seriously off-key performances by the people not lip syncing). And the sound! Whoever was in charge of the mix for broadcast will hopefully never work in the industry again.

Britain's justification for shite always seems to be 'weird and wonderful'. I have to say that I thought it was one of the biggest pieces of indulgent jingoism I've ever seen. A tacky pop concert with the occasional Shakespeare quote scrawled on the floor and performers riding scooters concealed in union jacks . . . The Olympics is something that belongs to the world and I just felt like Britain missed that and treated the entire thing as though it belonged to them. They hosted it, they didn't own it.

A tepid, embarrassing, sobering celebration of everything shit about our country, and a total anticlimax to a blinding two weeks.

1 plus though - no Macca!! No Cliff!!

One Direction are like dementors given musical form. In 3 excruciating minutes they almost managed to sap my olympic spirit, together with my soul.

The closing ceremony reduced popular culture to its lowest common denominator - a shiny soulless vamp with neither context nor meaning - the athletes corralled into place as the compliant appendices of an exercise in corporate-sponsored gurning.

The Rio presentation was the best thing about the whole evening !

George Michael. Why did he get to sing his latest shit single????

What a disappointment after the wonderful opening ceremony and the uplifting games. It wasn't fun, it wasn't clever. Those who had talent were overwhelmed by noise and confusion - and the choir matching actions to John Lennon's Imagine! Who thought that was a good idea?? Too many celebs and lightweights - this surely cannot represent the best of Britain's music past and present. Where are the Rolling Stones when you need them?

Eric Idle had come up with a new verse that actually added some context to Always Look on the Bright Side and it was great to see that he was still allowed to go with "Life's a piece of shit" - I was a bit worried that that might have been cut.

Why reprise the opening acts whilst the athletes came in? It was like listening to musak in the supermarket - missed opportunity to employ a bit more of what is after all, probably the best back catalogue of any country in the world.

After two weeks of exceptional athleticism and hard work from the female competitors, rewarding physical skill over looks, was it really appropriate to feature supermodels ?

- Is an Olympic closing ceremony really the best place to allow George Michael to plug his new single ?

- Yes, we all like the Pet Shop Boys but after they've done their bit do we need to have to listen to a recording of it again ? I thought the producers were upset they had to leave out so much British music, so why repeat bits ?

Half these acts weren't fit to appear on the same stage as the athletes, let alone lord it over them for the evening. A really awkward meeting of Sport and Entertainment.

Presumably someone at the Guardian was aware of the general reaction to this mess - if not Michael Billington himself - so why publish this ludicrously rose-tinted review-that's-not-a-review?

I think people are disappointed because Danny Boyle showed with the opening ceremony that Britain could be creative, fresh, entertaining and modern. The closing ceremony seemed like such a wasted opportunity. A symphony of British music? Fine if that is your plan - go for it, but at least do it properly. You have tens of millions of pounds and you hire ed sheeran to sing pink floyd and the kaiser chiefs to sing the who. How good would the ceremony have been had the director actually got pink floyd and got other British greats like led zep, the rolling stones, radiohead and the smiths? Instead we had some smash hit poll winners party style event which was mostly rubbish.

The closing ceremony reclaimed the last two weeks for the dead-eyed corporate lackeys who aim to make a killing on the back on sporting achievement and spectacle. It put everyone back in their place. Some say the athletes were having a ball. They didn't even have toilets.

Boris' stage managed 'spontaneous and wacky' dancing was pitiful, especially given the fact he warned us that might 'do something crazy' a few days ago, just in case we needed a reminder that he intended to go on the PR offensive again. Even more pitiful is the BBC obliging this man's egocentric whims and allowing this shite to appear on our TV screens. Depressing stuff.

Opening ceremony: genius
Closing ceremony: shite

So, so disappointing.
Flat, uninspiring, and as someone else said, like an extended Brit Awards.

Pity, as the past two weeks have been amazing.

I got pissed so thought it was great

It was dreadful. Everything I thought the opening ceremony would be (and wasn't). Corporate, celebrity-driven, tacky, ITV Saturday night, legacy trodding rubbish.

It was the CD collection of a certain type of man in his mid 40s. Why were Kaiser Chiefs there covering the Who? Where were the Stones? Why did George Michael plug his new single? That disgusted me - the man tried to sell his new song to us ugh. Jessie J endlessly hollering, and Annie Lennox braying.
In Hyde Park they had Blur, the Specials, New Order - why weren't they at the closing ceremony? And no it's not a matter of taste it's a matter of playing Great British Artists, of which Jessie J and Ed Sheeran and Taio Cruz are not.

When Freddie Mercury showed up on video it sent shivers down the spine, he would have torn the roof off that place. Instead we got a barely coherent guitar solo that went on too long and then Jessie J doing an awful Queen cover.

And did anyone else think that a lot of the artists were singing very flat?

Yes, I know it was a tribute to the British fashion industry (and why highlight fashion, we do have other industries), but the Olympics surely should be an inspiration for young girls to want to be Jessica Ennis and not Kate Moss.

One moment we are watching the montage of Jess's years of dedicated training reach its climax in the 800m and see her crying with her gold medal, and then, boom, it's right back to normal with our stupid celebrity culture that hugely rewards the likes of Kate Moss for merely looking good and making smoking and a poor diet look cool.

If they'd just put the athletes in the stadium and had a bit of a Brazilian disco that would have been totally fine. Instead we were treated to a recycled (they played loads of the tracks twice!) necrotic display of British pop history that then extinguished the brilliant feeling of the last weeks and all the hard work of athletes worldwide by letting coke sniffers like Brand, Moss and bless him George Michael take centre stage.
At least Cameron's image was permanently damaged by being caught dancing to the Spice Girls.

I didn't watch it all as it met my expectations of having to listen to ghastly pop music sung off key with appalling sound. Embarrassing to watch with some truly awful performances (yes George Michael I'm talking about you) that seemed to go on for ever. Absolute tripe for kids. I had no idea who Ed Sheeran was/is but he had me hiding behind the sofa in shame.

I also hate the way people are making others feel obliged to praise it so as not to run the risk of sounding cynical. Let’s be honest, if what we all witnessed last night was completely unconnected to our 'national pride' and just a show on after Eastenders, we'd all call it shite.

I saw it as our chance to get revenge for all those years of Eurovision humiliation. You think you can do pop pap? THIS is how it's done!

...oh, and meanwhile the ATHLETES themselves are relegated to standing room only, suddenly irrelevant, with only their medals to bite to remind them of their moment

Embarrassing, aimless crap. Brillant, eccentric opening ceremony, wonderful fortnight of sport, world-leading broadcasting with long-to-linger images...and then this! Like a giant provincial dad-dancing wedding reception presided over by superannuated DJ. I am no spring chicken, and I have lived through many decades of exceptional British music: none of which was showcased last night.To inflict that turgid, zombified, down-beat medley on all those young athletes, full of life and up for a party (as were most of the audience) was little short of criminal. And to end with Eric Idle singing "Bright Side of Life" surrounded by Roman Legionnaires: I've heard edgier stuff at the sing-songs at my 93 year old mother's care home! If Danny Boyle deserves a knighthood for the opening ceremony, then whoever put this mess together derserves to have his head spiked up on Traitors' Gate!

Four stars? Are you mad?
Opening ceremony was breathtaking. Closing ceremony made me pine for the glories of the Jubilee concert.
I have loved every minute of the Olympics. The Athletes, Volunteers and even LOCOG deserve every plaudit. But last night has left me feeling depressed. It was like a reorientation programme deliberately engineered to help us get back mundane reality. "Like, ah, I forgot we are shite after all!"

George Michael was shocking. Why did they think it a good idea for him to shamelessly plug his new single? What right gives him that? A man who hasn't done anything good for twenty years? No other act got that opportunity.
Annie Lennox = awful.

As previously mentioned, the organisers completely underestimated the time it took to get the athletes in, hence 'replaying' the soundtrack to the first part. Crap.
Ed Sheeran's cover was terrible. Why cover Wish You Were Here with no lead guitarist? Mike Rutherford? Purleeese!
What was telling was that truly iconic acts (bar The Who) were absent - and only used via muzak and dance sections (or from beyond the grave).

If they'd actually got Bowie or Bush to do something that would have been a coup. As it was, we were left with the tired (and overdone) Queen remnant - who have been marketing Freddie's legacy for 20 years.

Gold. Silver. Bronze. Lead.
It should have had Vera Lynn, Lulu, Sandie Shaw, and Cilla Black.

I thought Children in Need was in November, not August.
For the most part, it was uninspiring, messy, and lacked class. The opposite of everything that had preceded it.
Still, hopefully we built up enough credit over the last couple of weeks that we'll be forgiven.

Someone above summed it up brilliantly. It was everything I feared the opening ceremony was going to be like.
Bits were good. Eric Idle, The Who and the PSB. But most was poor to dire and didn't make any sense (why was everything wrapped in newspaper?????). Fitting that the three biggest stars of the night (Lennon, Bowie & Freddie) are either dead or retired.

If we're lucky, that closing ceremony won't have undone everything that has been good about the last two weeks.
If Boyle gave us a vision of Britain that we should aspire to, the closing ceremony was a sharp reality check.
If I was made to guess, I would've named Simon Cowell as the bright spark responsible for last night.
Turgid, self-aggrandising toss.

I was sat with my brazilian girlfriend and she came away from it completely baffled and not a little bored - surely it's not about appropriating the Olympics into whatever country is hosting it, but including the rest of the world too. We already had an utter shite Jubilee concert with the usual offenders, why do another one?

Democratic? Was it bollocks. It was carefully choreographed. Sure the athletes came in feeling cheerful and ready to party. They were then herded into pens and remained invisible for almost the entire remainder of the following celebrity fest (oops, sorry, "ceremony"). What should have been a celebration of the athletes was instead handed over to a set fo largely naff celebrities.
Eric Idle did his best but should have been visibly surrounded by athletes.

Hopefully thats killed off George Michaels career for good now. Used to be a fan too.
Why did they build a white pyramid in the middle and then just take it down again?? Why??
The fashion bit. WTF? Who on earth thought that actually fitted in with anything? It was almost as if they'd thought they would get Bowie until the very last minute and had to fill in.
COMPLETELY cocking up the timing estimates on the athletes entrance. By about 40mins. Shocking - especially as the only contingency plan was to repeat the first 40mins soundtrack.

On a positive note the set design and lighting were superb. Whoever thought up the seatback pixel LED things is a genius.

I wanted to vomit when Take That were playing as the Olympic flame was being lowered. It felt like the symbolic rape of everything that the flame stood for. Does anyone really think their music has anything resembling the required poignancy, dignity and class for such a moment? Kinda like trying to trim a bonsai tree with a gaudy lawnmower.
I am deeply embarrassed that this is how we signed off to the world after the sheer wonderment of the past two weeks and opening ceremony.

It turned into the usual cult of celebrity which seems to take over everything these days.
It would have been lovely to have some kind of story or theme written through this or at least seen the athletes that have given us so much enjoyment celebrated more. Instead we were assailed with that rubbish.

Disappointing. It just felt like they'd got the leftovers from the Queen's Jubilee concert out of the freezer and bunged them in the microwave. Soulless, corporate, predictable, bland, safe. None of the jaw-dropping "This can't be really happening" moments or genuine emotion of the opening ceremony. When they did try to create emotions, e.g. by projected footage of dead people (btw, they do know Bowie is still alive, don't they? Only they gave him the same treatment as Lennon and Mercury), it just felt manipulative and manufactured. Where Boyle gave us a jug of lovingly crafted, homemade organic lemonade, they gave us a bottle of Coke.
I thought Take That was an unbelievably crass choice for just after the extinguishing of the torch. Really, they might as well have got Mr Blobby or Black Lace, as it couldn't have murdered the dignity of the moment any more than it did. And I say that not because I dislike Take That - I do, but I would have found any cheesy manufactured pop acts that I really love equally inappropriate at that particular moment.

Things not so good: Emeli bloody Sande starting things with a whimper, montage of people crying (very sad), Stomp on twice (much clanging), Jessie J singing four - yes four - times in tacky look-at-me bodysuit, Taio bleeding Cruz, John Lennon's face boxes, repetition of the music whilst athletes arriving, Emeli Sande again, flag companions dressed as hookers. It was very Brit Awards but I suspect the great acts like Bowie and Rolling Stones wouldn't have gone near it, the latter mostly as they'd not be paid.

Olympic ceremonies are always naff. Are people really reviewing it as if they expected to see some sort of cutting edge music festival? It was shit but then it's not really aimed at people who like Billy Bragg.

[Wrong about Olympic ceremonies always being naff. Zhang Yimou and Zhang Jigang showed us how to do them four years ago in Beijing, as did our own Danny Boyle a couple of weeks ago. - Oxzen]

Closing ceremonies aren't generally remembered.. but this one just might be....
..for the shameless commercial promotion of British fashion, for the embarrasing use of Rolls Royces now produced by a German company, for presenting to the world how we seem to want to dwell in the past, how our culture can be whittled down to pop which we gave to the world back in the 1960s (and not much of merit ever since), how we insist on plastering the Union Jack over everything as if that alone gives it some kind of kudos, how somehow we see relevance in a plastic inflatable octopus with an aging DJ as its "brain".

The Olympic Games were organised very well. We got everything ready on time, but end up showing how Britain is slowly going down the plughole with really nothing new to say. The opening ceremony showed we were once the workshop of the world, the closing ceremony showed we don't know where on earth we are going any more.
Quite sad really.

I personally thought it was was deeply disappointed climax to a thoroughly inspiring two weeks. There was no central concept or over-riding vision.
The fashion segment was unforgivable (Victoria Beckham included in the same list as Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith? Really?). George Michael outstayed his welcome, the whole box-building thing seemed pointless. And if you insist on pursuing the questionable idea of turning a closing ceremony into a pop concert the very least you can do is sort out the sound and make sure most of your acts can actually sing.

And those acts should be paying tribute to the wonderful participants of the last fortnight, not stroking their own egos from on high. The self-satisfied sneer on Liam Gallagher's face was sickening.

I've no doubt the likes of Kate Bush and David Bowie were approached but quickly bailed when they discovered what a mess it was going to be. Well done them.

Prince Harry seemed a rather junior choice to represent the Queen at such a high-profile international event. Firstly, why couldn't she have turned up herself or, failing that, sent Charles? They've had seven years to clear a space in their diary. And really, would it have been impossible for William to get one night off work?

The entire country was on display to the world and the two senior royals buggered off on holiday. Their absence looked highly disrespectful. And it makes you wonder what we pay them for. If it had been a fucking horse show you can bet they'd have been knifing each other to get the best seats.

"I leave it others to judge whether the big musical section was a fair summary of British pop over the past 50 years."

OK, then. It was shit. Top to bottom and all the way around, shit. I will happily forget the Closing Ceremony ever happened and cherish all the other memories I have of the London 2012 games, from the torch procession through the magnificent Opening Ceremony through to the incredible athletes and the fantastic BBC coverage.
The Closing was a shower of shite and has no business being associated with all that preceded it.

Last night was just bland and vacuous, with the spectre of money rather than medals - as personified by the unworthy appearances of Kate Moss and George Michael - providing a terminal click to the artistry and effort seen over the past fortnight.

Originally I was very cynical about the corporate Olympics. But I was softened by Danny Boyle's inspired opening ceremony that dreamed an inclusive vision of modern Britain. Then I was seduced, firstly by the achievements of Jessica Ennis, and became progressively excited, awed and moved by the brilliance of so many great Olympians pushing the boundaries of human possibility. It felt like, for once, all the dross and crap of the world had been pushed aside to allow genuine magic a chance to rule our imaginations. I was truly inspired. Then last night's closing ceremony, an OK magazine view of Britain, reminded me what living here is really like, and I came back to earth with a jarring bump...

Well, I guess after the amazing last two weeks we needed something to gently lower the tone and ease us back into the lameness that is day to day life in Cameron's Britain.

The key word here is 'gently'; Kim Gavin and David Arnold slammed both feet on the brakes and sent everything achieved in the past fortnight hurtling through the windscreen.............

well done chaps!

You get served up a diet of slick, airbrushed, perfect professional culture every day. What Boyle did was give us something different - flawed, utterly genuine and human. The gulf between rich celebrity and ordinary person on the street was bridged for once.

I understand that not everyone will have liked it, but the amateurism was not an embarrassing, unintended mistake - it was an artistic choice which carried a totally intended message (we are not like Beijing - we wouldn't airbursh an unphotogenic six-year-old out of the ceremony for not looking slick enough).
Because Boyle put his own emotions into the show, it moved me. I just felt there was no emotion in the closing ceremony - it was entirely cynical, corporate construction.

I am sure the Queen very wisely stayed well away! Why on earth would she have wanted to witness this witless cringe making crap?

Four stars? ...Seriously?
It almost single-handedly undid all the optimism and euphoria of the previous two weeks.

Was really looking forward to this but it was lacklustre and ill conceived for such a big occasion.
To have the entire library of British music available to pick from and build an epic finale too, I dont think its unfair to have expected more than two songs from Emelie Sande (some agent she has) and then One Direction, Pet Shop Boys and Our House by Madness played on repeat for the first 90 minutes.
It then began to resemble a shambolic X Factor final style cheesy mess.
I enjoyed the elderly Norman Cook in an octopus but after all the fireworks, bells and whistles I couldn't help thinking what a wasted opportunity.

In case no-one has posted this already - an acerbic take on the closing ceremony that clearly articulates why I hated the closing ceremony more than I could ever have imagined possible.

It was like all the awfulness that was extracted from the opening ceremony - the fact that no X-Factor, manufactured rubbish was allowed to taint its artistry - was concentrated into 3 hours of Oxford Circus, souvenir-shop rubbish. Check the link here:

I think that most of us here are just trying to deal with how incredibly shit the closing ceremony was, so that we never have to think about it ever again. Even though I tried in vain to get at ticket to any event possible and failed, I thought the opening ceremony was brilliant, and the games superb. It's the (c)losing ceremony that needs to be banished as quickly and as absolutely from our memories, so we can remember how bloody good the rest was.

Someone asked why George Michael got to sing his latest single - and it's an important question. The choice of acts and the worldwide exposure was worth millions. The money involved would be worth looking at - especially the links between the record companies and sponsors. Blur get an off-camera gig in Hyde Park, while Beady Eye get a prime location. And how come Ed Sheeran always gets to play at these things?
On a more serious note - Leonard Cohen would have been brilliant. Hallelujah as the final song.

That closing ceremony was what I was afraid the opening ceremony was going to be like. Thankfully, Danny Boyle came up trumps.

The worst part about the whole thing last night was that it teased us into remembering the great great musicians we’ve produced, only to then dump on us with something completely different. Case in point – the big intro showcasing David Bowie…only to give a soundtrack highlighting british fashion (models) – including a plug for Victoria Beckham :(
There were quite a few individual lowpoints –
George Michael seriously outstayed his welcome. Freedom I could take, but that naff second song took the life out of the stadium and dragged and dragged and dragged…

"I still despise the smug smooth-jowled politicians cashing in on "feel good factors", and recoil from the horrible adman slogan, "Team GB". And I still hate the nationalistic jingoism of the modern Olympics, compared to the original games of classical times, which focused on individuals not nations." This is what Richard Dawkin's said and I agree - these elements are what I have hated about the 2012 Olympics. I've adored the sport - particularly seeing Andy take victory over Federer. The British seem to lose sight of the human sport and turn it into romanticised rhetoric of royal glee and lasting legacy. The amount of commentators I've seen interview medal winners and thrust a romantic vista upon them - 'What must you think when you cross the finish? I'd imagine you consider all the points leading up to it..being coached by your uncle as a child, losing at sport's day, getting beaten by school bullies', to which their response is an unpretentious and brilliantly honest 'Sorry to disappoint you but, no, I'm just thinking about where the f*cking line is.'

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