Parties At The Palace – Part 2

Close up of 3 flags suspended over Oxford Street. The left and right flags are Union Jacks, while the central flag is white with a dark blue circle containing a white drawing of a crown, around which is written The Queen's Platinum Jubilee 2022.

I’m delighted that the Platinum Jubilee was such a success this weekend, with lots of events taking place all over the country, and the weather holding out for the central celebrations in London. If you attended any events during the holiday, I hope you had a good time!

In my previous post I reviewed the Golden & Diamond Jubilee Concerts from 2002 and 2012 respectively. So in this post I’m going to discuss my highlights from this year’s concert, after briefly mentioning some of the other coverage that my mother and I have been tuning into. So I hope you enjoy!

In terms of going out and about, I gave the busiest areas and attractions in London a wide berth over the past 4 days, as they would have been far too packed. So I took some lovely long walks each day instead. That included a couple more rides on the new Elizabeth Line, following my first journey in May. I did have a wander down Oxford Street though, where it was nice to see the Union Jacks on display. It was busy of course, but not too much, so I was able to walk along it pretty quickly. I’ve seen it far worse at Christmas down there.

Meanwhile, back in April I explored the area around Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria Memorial, allowing me to get plenty of nice photos in the sunshine, which would have been impossible this weekend. It’s better to look at places like that when there aren’t so many tourists around!

Then at home, Mum and I have marked The Queen’s special occasion by consuming too many treats, watching various TV shows, and recording a few other bits and pieces that we’ll go through during June.

In the days leading up to the Jubilee we saw Secrets Of The Coronation on Channel 4, an interesting documentary going behind the scenes of the 1953 ceremony, talking to people who were directly involved as well as Royal experts and journalists. And this weekend we’ve recorded The Coronation on BBC One, where The Queen herself recalls the event. We also still have some souvenir books relating to The Coronation, as well as the Silver Jubilee, that my family have kept for years, so they’ve been nice to flick through too.

Other things we’ve recorded recently include a BBC One documentary about The Crown Jewels (presented by Clive Myrie), A Jubilee Of Music on BBC Four (a special show of musical highlights marking the first 25 years of The Queen’s reign) and the Radio 4 documentary Encounters With Elizabeth (talking to people who have met Her Majesty). So they should all be quite enlightening and fun to watch too.

As for the special events over the Jubilee weekend itself, we saw the stunning Trooping The Colour ceremony, with fabulous music, beautiful uniforms, a glorious flypast with planes forming the number 70 and the Red Arrows looking marvellous as always, a very happy Queen on the palace balcony with little Prince Louis pulling funny faces next to her, and massive crowds cheering it all on. There was also a lovely Thanksgiving Service at St Paul’s Cathedral, and we’ve recorded the huge Jubilee pageant full of thousands of wonderful performers, so we’re just starting to have a look through that too.

A lot of credit also deserves to go to presenter Kirsty Young, who returned to the BBC to host their Jubilee coverage after a lengthy absence caused by fibromyalgia. It was lovely to see her back on screen, she’s the perfect host for such an occasion.

But the big event I want to talk about in this post is the Platinum Party At The Palace, which was broadcast live on BBC One. Like the Diamond Jubilee Concert 10 years ago, it was again held outside the front of Buckingham Palace (whereas the Golden Jubilee Concert from 2002 was held in the palace gardens).

But this time it was on a much bigger scale, and from a visual perspective it looked stunning. The production team were really the stars of the night to be honest, more so than the musical acts.

The performance area, designed by Stufish Entertainment Architects, was massive for a start, with a huge double stage curving all the way around in front of the palace, linked by walkways to another stage in front of the Queen Victoria Memorial, facing down The Mall. Big screens all over the place ensured that nobody missed anything either. It seemed that every bit of remaining space was filled with as many people as they could squeeze in too.

And the lighting, designed by NorthHouse, was even more impressive. Not just on and around the stages, which worked nicely, but especially on the palace itself. As darkness drew in, the entire front of Buckingham Palace was constantly covered in projected imagery, from simple colours and patterns to complex animations, photos and video footage. The entire front of the building had been 3D-mapped in special software in order to achieve it, and it was a marvellous sight to behold. Plus there was another bit of visual magic that I’ll mention towards the end as well.

As for the concert itself, the extensive lineup of artists was inevitably rather a mixed bag, covering several decades and genres. So they didn’t all appeal to me, and there were several that I skipped over (having recorded it to watch later in the evening for just that reason). However, there were certainly a few highlights, including some rather unexpected ones that didn’t involve music.

The opening section in particular was very memorable, beginning with an absolutely adorable pre-recorded sketch, where The Queen met Paddington Bear. Paddington forgot his manners to begin with, by drinking tea straight from the pot and slapping his paw into a cream cake, but then made amends by offering Her Majesty his emergency marmalade sandwich, to which she responded by revealing one she carries in her own handbag. Paddington then sincerely thanked her for everything, before they both turned to enjoy the show.

This isn’t the first time The Queen has been involved in a humorous sketch, as she has a sense of humour and is a good sport about these things. But it safely beats the meeting she had with James Bond at the Olympics 10 years ago, as fun as that also was, given that her Paddington meeting is just so sweet and fun. It was a brilliant surprise to open the show with, as The Queen had even kept it secret from the rest of her family, while Paddington tweeted a lovely message afterwards. And it was wonderful that Her Majesty was able to be involved in the event in a special way like this, given that she was unable to make it in person.

Queen + Adam Lambert, who gave a backstage interview before the show, were then the main opening act, and unsurprisingly they nailed it. Their set was opened by 34 Royal Marines drummers playing the beat for We Will Rock You, during which we saw The Queen and Paddington clinking their spoons on their cups and saucers in time with it, which formed a lovely segue from their sketch into the main show.

Adam then gave a great performance of the song, with Freddie Mercury appearing on the big screens during the final chorus to encourage the crowd to sing along. And then, for the closing guitar solo, Brian was raised up on a platform in front of the Victoria Memorial, giving a slight nod back to his performance on the roof of the Palace 20 years previously. So that was a really well put-together opening number that got the crowd going nicely.

The trio (Adam Lambert, Brian May & Roger Taylor) then performed Don’t Stop Me Now, with images of The Queen appearing on the screen behind them during the outro, and We Are The Champions, which concluded with bursts of multicoloured smoke. So it was a great trilogy of hits that outshone pretty much all of the other artists that followed. Indeed, they should have been the closing headline act really. They could have had Freddie projected on to the palace then – how cool would that have been?! Still, they can now say they’ve performed a song with The Queen and Paddington Bear, which is a very cool exclusive!

Lee Mack then appeared on stage, as he was the compère for the evening, announcing each of the acts via voiceover most of the time. He’s a brilliant comedian who always knows exactly what to say – and therefore he made the most of his opening spot by almost immediately going off-script! He gestured at the palace entrance behind him and joked “I tell you what, finally we can say the words party and gate, and it’s a positive!

That reference to the Partygate scandal drew a lot of laughter, cheering and applause from the crowd – but probably not from Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie, and a few other members of Parliament, who were sitting in the Royal Box with the Royal Family at the time. So making that joke in front of the Prime Minister, the Royals and millions of worldwide viewers was a bold move on Lee’s part. So massive kudos to him for that – and also to Stephen Fry, who later put in a dig of his own by querying how many Prime Ministers The Queen had tolerated.

Sure, politics shouldn’t really enter into an event of this nature, and Boris had hoped this weekend would give him a bit of a reprieve. But given the depth of feeling about Boris and the Conservatives after the contempt they’ve held the public in during and since the pandemic, echoed by the boos he got when entering the Thanksgiving service as well, people really aren’t going to move on like he wants them to. Those jokes were necessary to underline that. Something really needs to change, and a lot of Tory MPs agree, having triggered a confidence vote in Johnson’s leadership today, immediately after the Jubilee was over. Boris won the vote by 211 votes to 148, but that’s still a considerable rebellion, and his days are clearly numbered now. It’s a matter of when he goes, not if, at this point. The upcoming by-elections may well be another big telling point of the public mood as well.

Anyway, Lee then went on to refer to Freddie Mercury’s appearance on the big screen, and proceeded to do a quick bit of call-and-response with the audience, doing a particularly complex call for the Royal Box, which made them laugh. It’s a shame Freddie didn’t play a bigger role, but I’m glad he was given recognition.

After those opening acts, however, things became much more variable in terms of quality, although it’s great that they had something for everyone of course. So I’m not going to talk about all of the performers, as I bypassed many of them, particularly a lot of the modern stars. But other notable moments that got my attention, for better or worse, included:

  • Rod Stewart wasn’t so good, however, he’s getting a bit too old now really. His performance of Baby Jane was just about passable, but he expressed deep reluctance at the BBC forcing him to perform Sweet Caroline (as it had come top in a poll), and it quickly became obvious why. The backing singers and the huge crowd did a lot of heavy lifting for him, but it wasn’t really enough, he wasn’t very tuneful!
  • Andrea Bocelli, on the other hand, seemingly hasn’t been affected by age at all, belting out Nessun Dorma with magnificent power at the age of 63. It was definitely one of the strongest moments of the concert. He had been introduced by Jessica Ennis-Hill & Tom Daley, who thanked The Queen for her support of sport.
  • Duran Duran & Nile Rodgers then did a great couple of songs together, with Notorious (albeit somewhat spoiled by the rapping of Ms Banks) and Girls On Film (featuring models walking up and down the central walkway in big colourful costumes). So I was pleased to see them.
  • There was a really lovely section about taking care of our natural world, introduced by David Attenborough projected onto the palace next to other video footage. Hans Zimmer then proceeded to play music from the soundtrack of Planet Earth II, accompanied by dancers from the Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet School, while footage of animals played on the palace exterior. The Queen could also be heard talking about the importance of caring for 0ur planet, paying tribute to Prince Philip (her late husband), Prince Charles and Prince William as well. William then gave an impassioned speech about protecting our planet as well, which was very nice. So it was a lovely calming section with an important message, only ruined by Celeste taking the “Wonderful” out of What A Wonderful World with her awful performance.
  • Elton John was then projected on to the front of the palace, playing his classic Your Song, in a pre-recorded video from the Crimson Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, while accompanied by live strings players on stage. The crowd were also encouraged to join in, with the lyrics for the chorus appearing next to Elton on the palace walls, and lots of people holding up their arms to sway their glowing wristbands. It was a very nice performance.
  • Later on, after being introduced by Stephen Fry, and while standing in front of a big Union Jack, Prince Charles gave a lovely closing speech. He repeated his opening of “Your Majesty… Mummy!” that he did at the Golden and Diamond Jubilee Concerts in the past, before thanking everyone involved and paying a loving tribute to his mother. Video clips of The Queen throughout her life were projected on to the palace as he spoke, and he got a huge cheer for her. Then the national anthem was played, with a massive Union Jack projected onto the palace.
  • That was followed by a spectacular light show. Again the palace was lit up with all sorts of imagery, but the focal point this time was above it, thanks to some incredible drone art by SkyMagic (who had previously produced the 2021 New Year drone display). Using 400 drones, that looked like coloured dots in the sky, they formed animated images of a Union Jack, a happy Corgi with a bone, a handbag with hearts coming out of it, tea being poured from a pot, two guards, a flower, a postage stamp with the Queen’s head on it, a flying swan, the number 70 with a crown inside the zero, and the words “Thank You Ma’am”. SkyMagic also did a great job collaborating with the NorthHouse lighting team, to choreograph the drones with the palace projections. So it really was something special, with gorgeous visuals that made up for the awful music accompanying it, including Mica ParisRuby Turner & Nicola Robert murdering Climb Ev’ry Mountain.
  • Finally, to close the show, Diana Ross came on stage to give her first performance in the UK for 15 years, ahead of her headline spot at Glastonbury later this month. She was evidently chosen because she’s one of The Queen’s favourite artists, and there is no doubt that she’s a superstar. She also looked very nice in the big dress she was wearing. So it’s a shame that her performance was rather a letdown, partly hampered by her age, and partly by the sound mixing. It was difficult to hear her over the music sometimes, and she was also miming most of the time it seemed, without making any attempt to hide it. At one point she was still talking when her pre-recorded vocals kicked in, at another stage she was attempting to sing live over the top of herself (with the recorded vocals sounding better), and at the end she stopped and held her arms out with a triumphant smile while her vocals were still going! So it was all a bit odd really. And then the BBC abruptly ended the broadcast after she’d got the audience to shout their thanks to Her Majesty a few times, so it didn’t feel like the concert really had a big climax. The light show should have closed it really.

So overall there was a fair amount in the concert that didn’t appeal to me, but there were enough good moments to make it worthwhile watching, and it was a nice way of celebrating the Queen’s 70-year reign. The opening with Paddington and The Queen, the speeches and jokes, the projections on the palace and the drone display were really the best elements, before you even consider the music. And the top 5 performances for me came from Queen + Adam Lambert, Andrea Bocelli, Duran Duran, Elton John and some of the musical theatre stars. Other people will have very different opinions I’m sure given the wide variety of acts. But I hope you enjoyed reading my personal thoughts on it all!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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