Closing night: Coldplay/Rihanna, Olympic Stadium, London

Deadly rockers leave a great show without the drama it deserved

The hip perfection of Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony, sneaking a socialist yet inclusive vision of Britain into a courageous representation of the nation, has faded with every subsequent day. By this final night of the Paralympics, Coldplay are all that are left: the bland, blunted version of our nation we first feared would be hurled at the world.

The Paralympics themselves have been a unique, challengingly idealistic adjunct to the main event. The last few days' belated burst of summer has tied the capital to an expansive sort of Britain. But combining our most popular band with random guest stars led by Rihanna, a largely disabled orchestra and Boris Johnson is a limiting, last version of the city.

Coldplay potter on stage with no drama or charisma, a vacant version of British pop in the 21st century. "Us Against The World" is an unconvincingly dramatic statement of intent, offering no lyric of consequence. "Paradise" is a repetitive chorus without an end-product, the sort of feel-good palliative many feared would swamp this largely corporate event.

Rihanna, a Bajan inexplicably invited aboard tonight's event, floats across the stage in a blood-red dress, but with no fire to add to Coldplay's already emptily amiable set. Their signature song "Yellow" sounds like an anthem for a nation with no values at all. When Jay-Z, the biggest star in a global hip-hop, joins Rihanna, as Coldplay's Chris Martin plinks away at his keyboard, we are offered uplift without meaning, and music without context. The world's athletes, and our host country, deserve more.

Coldplay stand back for a bit, to let the ceremony progress. But the pomp and music of these final minutes of the Olympics are dwarfed by the genuine spirit of what has gone before.

"Nobody said it was easy," Chris Martin admits near the end of "The Scientist". "I'm going back to the start." The inappropriate, unathletic softness of this particular British band, as flag-wavers for a phase of the Games where athletes sometimes lacking limbs have powered to victory, is summed up in this song.

Coldplay's late entry to an Olympics which began with Boyle's subtle, defiant song to an unfashionably multicultural and working-class Britain feels limp. The fireworks and lasers which intersect as they finish over an east London that seems likely, in the end, to benefit very little from this extravaganza hardly make it the night to remember drummed up on television.

This so-called Festival of Flame is on its own terms a damp squib. But the Londoners attending it, and other Britons swanning in this Olympics' wake, have been altered anyway in this unexpected, optimistic seven weeks.

Warming up with Coldplay

Even before Coldplay took to the stage at last night's Closing Ceremony, the band's music reverberated across the nation. Bandstands from the Olympic Park to East Lothian rang to renditions of the song "Viva La Vida" at 2pm. The Bandstand Marathon encouraged musicians to play the song in their own style, which included an Elvis impersonator in Barry, South Wales, and an Afro-Caribbean band in north London. Coldplay's Chris Martin called it a "great moment".

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