Performing Arts

Star-studded tribute crowns the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee


US singer and pianist Alicia Keys performs on stage during the Platinum Party at Buckingham Palace on June 4, 2022. PHOTO | AFP

The transformation of pop music in the last 70 years was laid out spectacularly on a royal stage in the UK last weekend as organisers of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee put together a soundtrack of the hits that have captured the imagination of generations through the reign of the British monarch.

The Platinum Party at the Palace concert last Saturday was one of the highlights of the four-day holiday in the UK celebrating 70 years on the throne for Queen Elizabeth II.

The Mall that stretches from one end of London's Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace is ordinarily packed with thousands of visitors each day eager to see one of the touristic attractions of Britain's capital.

On Saturday night, the multitudes came in the hundreds of thousands (the crowd was estimated at 22,000 people) and filled up every inch of the promenade in a sea of red, blue, and white colours of the Union Jack.

Official figures show that a record 12 million viewers across the UK tuned in to BBC One to watch the concert, the biggest audience of the year for the domestic flagship channel.

Even though the bill was curated to reflect the musical legacy of the Queen's reign, it is the tried and tested musical icons who connected with the screaming crowd of fans singing along to some of the familiar hits.

Sir Rod Stewart, who in the days leading up to the event had appeared on TV reflecting how the Queen came to the throne when he was just 7, was all decked out in a golden jacket opening his set with one of his signature songs "Baby Jane".

Stewart roused the crowd with a rendition of Neil Diamond's 1969 song "Sweet Caroline" the theme song for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations which has remained relevant through the years, thanks to its use as a sports anthem.

Sir Elton John in a taped message spoke of the impact that Queen Elizabeth has had on his own life and dedicated to her an orchestral rendition of "Your Song" performed in the royal surroundings of the red drawing room of Windsor palace.

Earlier in the week, photographs had emerged of the legendary performer being pushed in a wheelchair due to a hip injury raising concerns about his ability to perform at the concert.

Alicia Keys, delivered a soulful element to the show with a set that contained songs in harmony with the theme of the event, starting with "Superwoman" which segued into "Girl on Fire" with the images of flames draping down the walls of Buckingham Palace.

Seated at the piano in a regal black and gold costume, the 41-year-old concluded with "Empire State of Mind" backed by a choir, and improvised the lyrics in the final verse to refer to London instead of New York.

There were sections of the concert devoted to British fashion and sport. Italian classical tenor Andrea Bocelli "Nessun Dorma" had spoken of having nerves like a 'footballer in a penalty shoot-out' right after a tribute to the sports stars who have put the UK on the map over the last 70 years

South African producer and composer Lebo M performed along with the cast of "Lion King" as part of a medley of popular musicals featuring Memory from Cats, and Any Dream Will do from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

The performances were interspersed with social messages on the pressing issues of our time such as protection of the environment. Prince William honoured his grandmother's commitment to protection of the natural world and saluted the efforts of pioneering conservationists like Sir David Attenborough and Kenyan Nobel Prize winner, Prof Wangari Maathai.

The Duke's message of optimism that humankind will rise to the challenge posed by the environment transitioned into a rendition of the Louis Armstrong classic "What a Wonderful World" performed by the acclaimed 28-year-old British singer-songwriter, Celeste.

The bill contained a blend of legends like the band Queen who were the opening act with their anthem hits 'We Will Rock", "Don't Stop Me Now" and "We Are The Champions", and contemporary stars such as Sigala, Jax Jones and Mabel representing the current generation of artistes.

Motown icon Diana Ross, marked her return to the UK stage for the first time in 15 years, by crowning the night with three hits from her catalogue "Chain Reaction" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and her new single "Thank You" whose lyrics were projected on Buckingham Palace

The star-studded cast of musicians, cheered on by the thousands of fans in the summer sunshine, provided the perfect tribute to 70 years of service by the world's third longest-reigning monarch.