Closing Ceremonies are never easy – how do you balance populism with artistic brilliance, nostalgia with modernity, and the true face of a city with its cringe inducing stereotypes? The tiresome Spice Girls and Take That’s cosy banality hardly capture the spirit of vibrant multicultural London. The Games have been beautiful – a magnificent mesh of millions, from every corner of the world, coming together to cheer, dance, and roar their arses off as one, with and against each other – somehow simultaneously.
Muse monumentally misjudged their Olympic Anthem. “Survival’s” ironic bombast never truly represented the conflicted and understated city that gave rise to Mo Farah. The closing ceremony was a polystyrene wrapped “extravaganza” so determined not to offend the kind of mild mannered Tory MPs and middle Englanders who bawked at Danny Boyle’s “leftie rubbish”, that it ended up representing no one in particular. Blur on the other hand, are London through and through – and they wholly understood the moment they inhabited.
Something incredible was about to pass us by, and their serene melancholy, yearning heartache, and frustrated anonymity brought to life the London of crammed tube lines and distant stares. The real London. Sure we may have loutish lads, moaning middle-aged men, and a hellish rat race, but when we sing (or bellow) as one we are irresistible. 8 million distant individuals, allowed to live separate and together as autonomous entities – unified not by some false notion of Britishness but by our collective differences and our will to get on in this city.
This is the London Blur brought to life brilliantly with “Trimm Trabb”, “Under The Westway”, and “Parklife”. Hyde Park was overcome by a distinct desire: no one wanted these halcyon days to end. The last fortnight has been magical, and with the serenely resigned anthems “Out Of Time”, “No Distance Left To Run”, and “The Universal”, Blur strode across the conflicted territory we are all secretly preparing to brace: Do we stubbornly refuse to admit that it’s over, or should we celebrate the incredible achievement that we’ve all collectively helped to realise?
The end of London 2012 has been heartbreaking, the memories will last a lifetime, but right now London feels like the abandoned lover at the heart of “No Distance Left To Run”: it’s over, you don’t need to tell me, I hope your with someone who makes you feel safe when you’re sleeping tonight.
The 50,000 strong highlights were enlivening and brilliant, but even as “Girls & Boys” and “Song 2” blared out across Hyde Park, you couldn’t help but feel London was dancing with tears in its eyes, but thankfully no one does tubthumpingly beautiful resignation quite like Blur – a sorrowfully majestic farewell [4.5/5.0]
The Specials know how to have a good time and get everyone dancing. They’ve perfected the art of finding unity and wit where division and distrust once flourished – and with hits as spritely as “Monkey Man”, “Friday Night, Saturday Morning”, and “Too Much Too Young” they simple can’t fail. [3.5/5.0]
New Order faced a tougher task. The slowly swelling crowd was clearly in the mood for quick thrills rather than craftily layered suites full of delicately contrasting textures. It took a while for the Manchester Legends to get the crowd onside, and at first, the signs were worrying. Bernard Summers’ sweet melodic tongue has seemingly lost the light glide of youth, and he appears more comfortable crooning to Ian Curtis’ “Isolation” than attempting to recreate the strain highs of “The Perfect Kiss”. Thankfully, he recovers his voice in time for a rousing finale. “Bizzare Love Triangle”, “True Faith”, “Blue Monday”, “Temptation”, and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” erase all memory of their prior stumble and get Hyde Park moving. [3.0/5.0]
Bombay Bicycle Club found themselves charged with representing new music at tonight’s event, but as far as the unresponsive crowd are concerned pop might as well have died in 2002. Neither the band’s energy, nor “Shuffle” and “Always Like This’s” quirky melodic energy and can rouse much of a response. [2.5/5.0]
A side note: The sound at Hyde Park evidently sucks. I had perfect sound for 90% of the day, but others clearly didn’t. There were audible chants of “Turn it up” during Blur’s headline set. I’ve experienced these woes before at Arcade Fire, and in truth, if the Hyde Park residents won’t allow enjoyable sound levels, it’s time for this legendary venue to bow out. At £60 a ticket, you can’t leave thousands disappointed.