BEST: God Save the Scene!
The Union Jack was proudly on display throughout the London Games, from the athletes’ Stella McCartney-designed uniforms to last night’s clever set. Not only was it one last blast of British patriotism, but the arms of the flag’s overlaid crosses offered a dynamic staging area for cars to zoom around the stadium, models to strut their stuff (more on that later), and all the Olympians to revel in the night’s after-party vibe.
WORST: Make 'Em Last!
All due respect to creative director and choreographer Kim Gavin, but for most of the first half of the evening, the marching orders for ”A Symphony of British Music” seemed to be: ”Take what was an entertaining 15-minute segment in the Opening Ceremony and make it three hours.” Despite a lovely cameo by Timothy Spall, playing Winston Churchill and throwing back to the Opening Ceremony’s speech from The Tempest, it took a long time for the Closing Ceremony to really get going. I’m sorry to say it, but I think some of it was because of the parade of old dudes (Madness, George Michael, Pet Shop Boys) who were tapped to warm up the crowd. As they say, age before beauty!
SPLIT DECISION: Fa-Fa-Fa-Fashion
BEST: During a tribute to Britain’s trendsetters (Burberry! Victoria Beckham!), mega-sized pictures of supermodels including Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss were driven in on flatbeds, then taken down to reveal that the world-class beauties were there in the flesh. A Zoolander-worthy walk-off ?ensued.
WORST: No catfights?! No Bowie?! For a moment, it seemed like Moss was walking over to Campbell to knock her out, but then the segment ended. I guess Moss had put in her contractually obligated five minutes and was ready to go back to being fabulous beyond the reach of the masses.
WORST: Moving Violations?
Seriously, who thought of putting the performers on moving vehicles? ?Most of them handled it beautifully, but I’m pretty confident in saying I wasn’t the only person waiting with bated breath for Jessie J or one of the kids from One Direction to become pop culture roadkill.
WORST: Something Old, Something New
Speaking of One Direction, do you think they ever imagined themselves as the following act to the Pet Shop Boys? Do you think they’ve ever heard of the Pet Shop Boys? Or were they thinking to themselves, ”Who are those geezers dressed up like Lady Gaga’s weird uncles who hijacked Katniss Everdeen’s chariot of fire?” The mix of acts itself wasn’t the problem, it was the clunky collision of nostalgic performers (many of whom we just saw at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee) and contemporary artists. The kind of aural jumble that works on my iPod takes a little more finesse to pull off in a live performance context.
WORST: Im-''Pure Imagination''
What was that? Russell Brand on a VW bus singing the signature tune from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory = WEIRD. Russell Brand surrounded by a horde of Fembot-y violinists and acid trip-induced hippies singing ”I Am the Walrus” = WEIRDER. Throw in a hyper-expressive Fatboy Slim on top of the VW bus — which had by then transformed into a massive balloon octopus, by the way —, and it was like the abyss of a fever dream. On the upside, at least all the kids remembered that dance Usher taught them during lunch period!
BEST: Spice Up the Ceremony
Yo, I’ll tell ya what I want, what I really, really want: A Spice Girls reunion! After several false starts, the Girls officially kicked the ceremony into high gear. My only complaint was that I could have used a little more Scary, Ginger, Sporty, Baby, and Posh. Oh wait, the Olympics is not an appropriate venue to sing ”2 Become 1”? Well… okay.
SPLIT DECISION: The Artists Formerly Known As Oasis
Apparently, every member of Oasis other than Noel Gallagher decided to stick it to the fiery founding member by forming a new band, Beady Eye. They performed the world’s second-most-famous Liverpudlians’ biggest hit ”Wonderwall.” Sure, Liam Gallagher has officially morphed from Ian Somerhalder’s unibrowed-but-hot older cousin to Rhys Ifans in Notting Hill, and his voice is verging on Cartman-level nasal affectation, but the crowd (I’m looking at you, Lolo Jones!) lapped it up. Why? Because ”Wonderwall” is a damn good song.
BEST: Mr. ''Bright Side''
If for no other reason than that Monty Python trouper Eric Idle inspired HRH Prince Henry of Wales (a.k.a. Hot Harry) to whistle along to this famous ditty from Life of Brian, it would be a winner. Add to that a good, old-fashioned Bollywood breakdown and a human cannonball — which also inspired another ear-to-ear grin from Harry and his sister-in-law Kate. The crowd was already reaching a fever pitch, and then came…
BEST: ''We Will Rock You''
Nothing gets a crowd stomping, clapping, and all-around amped-up like Queen’s 1977 arena rocker (performed by Queen’s virtuoso guitarist Brian May and Jessie J, who has clearly been going to yoga). The evening wouldn’t have been a complete celebration of Britain without the song. That said, where was the punk music?
BEST: Bob Costas Was Temporarily Stunned into Silence
How do you say ”sweet relief” in Portuguese? If Brazil knows how to do anything, it’s throw a massive party. The samba janitor and a growing Carnival of unidentified Brazilian artists (including one white-suited gentlemen who appeared to be the heir to Snoop Dogg in his ”Sensual Seduction” video and Randy Watson of Sexual Chocolate. The 2016 Opening Ceremony is going to be EPIC. Even if…
WORST: Brazilians Might Be Kind of Weird, Y'all
When I first saw Brazilian vocalist Marisa Monte, my first thought was ”Who invited Björk back?” All Costas could think to say was that she was cruising by ”in a giant float obviously intended to be a giant gown.” Thanks, Bob. I wouldn’t have gotten that subtle nuance without you! He wisely returned to silence upon seeing some dude who may or may not be the creepy test tube baby of Cee Lo and will.i.am.
BEST: Pelé! Pelé! Pelé! Fireworks! Pelé!
Just as London’s Closing Ceremony wouldn’t have been complete without ”We Will Rock You,” the hand-off to Rio wouldn’t have been official without Brazil’s national hero, considered by many to be the greatest soccer player of all time — and, thankfully, no flare was spared.
BEST: ''We Did It Right''
Succinct, elegant, wonderful. Even amid the spectacle, there was a place for sentiment. London Olympic chairman Lord Sebastian Coe’s heartfelt speech delivered as he told the crowd, ”To all the Olympians who came to London to compete, thank you. Those of us who came to watch witnessed moments of heroism and heartbreak that will live long in the memory. You have our admiration and our congratulations. On the first day of these Games I said we were determined to do it right. I said that these Games would see the best of us. On this last day I can conclude with these words: When our time came, Britain, we did it right. Thank you.”
BEST: Ending on a High Note
Some questionable (and highly Gif-able) dancing-while-walking choices from Take That member Jason Orange aside, the group beloved by Princes William and Harry wrapped up the ceremony with a triumphant performance of their 2004 hit ”Rule the World.”
WORST: ...Or Not?
Here’s what you didn’t see directly after Take That. Why? Because NBC cut away from a performance by The Who to pimp its new series Animal Practice. Full disclosure: I did not watch Animal Practice (so I can’t speak to its merits as a show). What I can say is that the network’s notion that viewers might stay up an extra hour on a Sunday night to watch a five-minute performance from the Who — legends or not — was wrongheaded. Though the Peacock did many things right these Games, this last editorial decision was an official #nbcfail.