9:00 PM London time. Emeli Sande gets to open for Stomp, a Winston Churchill impersonator (actually the same actor who played him in "The King's Speech") and a huge stadium sized print wrapped traffic jam. Then Prince Harry is introduced as "God Save the Queen" is played. Eight minutes in, and the Spice Girls can't possibly top all this, can they?
9:10. I'm already thinking this diary was a bad idea, there's no way I can keep up. Madness playing "Our House" on the back of a flatbed truck, Buckingham Palace soliders mingling with red-clad waitresses and shiny green leprachauns? Help!
9:12. The guards are actually a state band and they just broke into Blur's "Parklife"! All the yellow and green and red and purple and yellow clad freaks are singing and waving along. And that's just the opening for the Pet Shop Boys and a bunch of orange conehead wearing cyclists. Chris Lowe is idly tapping what looks like a keyboard made of orange cardboard. I will never forget this closing ceremony as long as I live.
9:15. The Eurosport TV commentators say that One Direction are the biggest band in the world. Use hyperbole much? Of course there's nothing more British than ensuring that every generation of UK preteen girls has its own fresh faced boy band to worship for three to five years (until the inevitable reunions ten to fifteen years down the road).
9:22. Acrobatic group Spellbound perform some dizzying gymnastics to the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" while a black Rolls Royce delivers a haggard looking Ray Davies to the stage to sing "Waterloo Sunset". He's not ready for his closeup but sounds great for a 68-year old rock legend. A tightrope walker nearly slips and falls, not like anyone could notice with the 847 other things that are going on here.
9:27. Emeli Sande returns for an encore of "Read All About It" as we approach the half hour mark and see a video montage of Olympic athletes from these Games crying tears of joy. This is one instance when I'm looking forward to Jacques Rogge's boring Olympic summation speech so I can take a short break from all this.
9:35. Olympics athletes, coaches and various chaperones are filing in from all directions. Some are wearing team outfits, some aren't, some are streaming single file from the aisles in the stands, some are jogging on the floor of the stadium. I can't make heads or tails out of it, and Elbow are soundtracking all this chaos for some reason. Break achieved.
9:52. As they continue filing in to fill in the giant Union Jack flag in the centre of the stadium, and I wonder what's supposed to happen once some of these drunk people need to start using the bathroom, the commentators announce that the "Symphony of British Music" to come later in the show will feature some five hundred songs! Did I hear that right? And I'm supposed to recap it?
10:00. The British athletes enter to an interpretive dance set to Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill", which gets set to a slo-mo video montage of athletes in motion, partly shot in black and white. You can't say they don't know how to dramatize sport in London. This is followed by the men's marathon medal ceremony, the final medal presentation of the Games, one of my favourite traditions of the Olympics.
10:07. And now it's time for the Symphony of British Music. One hour's worth. I will recap the breakneck insanity at at my own peril.
10:11. I'm surprised they'd open with Queen and John Lennon, I mean, wouldn't you expect that to close the performance? And the Spice Girls are supposed to top a white plaster John Lennon mask, deaf kids signing the words to "Imagine", and hundreds of white balloons?
10:22. George Michael gets nearly ten minutes for "Freedom" and his new single "White Light"? The commentators refer to him as a talented singer and a troubled soul, or something to that effect. Troubled? Because of his near death from pneumonia last year? Sick people usually aren't labeled as "troubled". So he must have been referring to his multiple arrests over the years. Is it really appropriate to mention that right now?
10:24. Kaiser Chiefs offer a teaser for the Who reunion later on with a cover of "Pinball Wizard". Then it's a rapid fire montage of David Bowie music and photographs. For a moment I wonder whether this means Bowie is about to make a dramatic return from retirement, but unfortunately isn't just a few supermodels strutting around to "Fashion" while the commentators pimp the September issue of Vogue. Yes, random supermodels << Bowie coming out of retirement.
10:32. Hmm this looks like a goth Annie Lennox perched on the bow of a zombie ship? A definite pass.
10:35. Ed Sheeran, who I've never heard of (just 21?) leads a supergroup (incl. Nick Mason, Mike Rutherford) in a straightforward performance of Floyd's "Wish You Were Here". Not bad, but aren't there thousands of other kids performing in bars across the UK who have this song in their repertoire?
10:39. Everyone loves the Beatles, so it's no shock that the organizers wanted to pack in as many of their songs as they could. But Russell Brand as Willy Wonka warbling "I Am the Walrus"? I'm eventually won over by the kaleidescopic outfits and swaying violinists. I'm also wishing I was seeing this in HD, because the light show and background video screens (IN the stands all around the stadium) are spectacular.
10:44. Fatboy Slim, whose CD decks may not be plugged into anything (Ladbrokes has it 3:1 against) dances to excerpts from "Right Here Right Now" and "The Rockafeller Skank". Pretending to DJ is fun!
10:47. From that we jump to the '10's generation with Jessie J ("Price Tag") and Tinie Tempah ("Pass Out) ... and Taio Cruz ("Dynamite"). They drive around in fancy cars because they like money, or something. Norman Cook feigns his interest by continuing to pretend to DJ. The trio then ascend to the stage to take on the Bee Gees' "You Should Be Dancing". I think they're picking random names and song titles out of a hat now!
10:52. I'm wondering whether Adele, who is genuinely the biggest music star in the Western world and hasn't even been rumoured to be making an appearance (AFAIK), will provide us with a genuinely huge surprise later tonight.
10:53. This Bee Gees "tribute" is falling flat on its face in large part because the three artists who are supposed to be singing it are obviously not the least bit interested in singing it. "We sang our own hits already for 90 seconds each, aren't we done here?"
10:54. FINALLY it's the Spice Girls reunion, and I can't help but wonder if they feel vindicated that all the criticism leveled at them back in the day now looks petty and vindictive now that *every* gonzo live performance (particularly on gala shows like this one) revolves around the spectacle rather than how well you can sing and dance in the classically trained sense. Actually, I'm sure they don't feel vindicated at all, as if they could care less what people think of them at this point! But why WHY do they get only a few short minutes to steamroll through "Wannabe" and "Spice Up Your Life" while Liam Fucking Gallagher gets as long as he wants to whine his way through "Wonderwall" with his backing band. They couldn't deliver a surprise Oasis reunion if they had to insist on inviting this guy?
11:06. The biggest ovation of the evening has just gone to Eric Idle as he broke into "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life". Are you surprised that everyone from the dancing nuns to the Dutch Olympic team are waving and whistling along? Of course there's only one way to cap it all off -- with an odd "Slumdog Millionaire"-like interlude and a coda involving opera singers, ice skating nuns and a man shot across the stadium from a cannon. Hello world, there was your moment of British for the evening, i.e. you probably had to be British (or at least watched most of the Monty Python movies) to know what that was all about. The rest of the world had George Michael and the Spice Girls, the Brits had that all to themselves.
11:13. Unfortunately that's not the end of the British music extravaganza hour, it's Muse performing their completely ignored London Olympics theme song that sounds nothing like an actual Olympic theme song. Say what you will about David Foster, but he knows his forte.
11:15. But wait, it's not the end after all ... the real end is a video of Freddie Mercury leading a stadium crowd in a singalong, followed by a live performance of "We Will Rock You" by the remainder of Queen with Jessie J. See, I knew they'd close with Queen after all. Brian May might have let his still thick mane of hair go grey, but he can still shred. And can you believe these guys have continued without Freddie Mercury for longer than they were actually with Freddie Mercury?
11:31. As much as I've enjoyed this rapid fire review of the past forty years of British music, I'm more than ready to move on and take the crash course in Brazilian music, if this brief introduction to the Games of '16 are any indication of what's to come.
11:50. Bureaucratic stiffs don't get much stiffer than Jacques Rogge, do they?
11:51. A sad, dramatic extinguishing of the Olympic flame wouldn't be complete without Take That (sans Robbie Williams), would it? Yeah, it's late and I'm ready for Rio now. Nevertheless, why wasn't "Rule The World" the Olympic theme song rather than that Muse thing?
11:57. Dancers with flame patterned tights are performing while the Olympic flame still burns. Are they going to sacrifice themselves to the flame or something?
11:59. After all that fanfare, a moment of restraint ... the individual torches that make up the collective flame simply vanish.
12:00 AM. Restraint? Seconds after the flames go out in a rare moment of tranquility, the opening chords of "Baba O'Riley" instantly kill the mood.
12:10 AM. If the tepid response to the Who was any indication, it looked like the athletes and audience were both totally exhausted and ready to go home. They should have ended this thing with the Brazilian sneak preview, with the Carnival performers ambushing the flame and sprinting out of the arena while the confused commentators speculated on what they just saw before the transmission abruptly cuts off and our screens fade to black.