Simon Kelner: Unplugged, unenlightened and just un-British

Kelner's view


It's possibly easier to come across a rock god than a black cab in London at the moment. First up was Bruce Springsteen, who found out what unplugged really means when his concert at Hyde Park was summarily curtailed after over-running his allotted time.

He was concluding an encore with Sir Paul McCartney when the concert organisers, worried that it was way beyond Sir Macca's bedtime, thought the only way to get them off the stage was to switch off their microphones. (Apparently, McCartney looked very surprised at the abrupt ending, but then he looks very surprised by most things these days.) Since when did Britain become a police state, asked one of the band, rhetorically? He should try taking a flame-grilled whopper into the Olympic Park.

The night after Springsteen came Paul Simon. There was no chance he would overstay his welcome on stage, however – at 70, Simon likes to retire with the crossword and a hot drink long before Newsnight. Between them, Springsteen and Simon encouraged more than 100,000 people – some of whom were under 40 – to believe the British summer meant outdoor concerts rather than flood warnings.

And the biggest gig of all will be the Olympic closing ceremony, the line-up for which was leaked at the weekend, confirming that the rest homes for aged rock stars will be further emptied out in August. The Who, Ray Davies, Madness and the Pet Shop Boys will all be performing, but – unlike the Jubilee concert, which was, admittedly, a very different occasion – some effort has been made to represent the historic edginess of British music.

So Russell Brand is singing the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant", and The Clash are appearing, although they won't be singing "White Riot", a powerful appeal to white youths to take to the streets to overthrow the establishment, but instead have opted for the rather less controversial "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"

It is a rather refreshingly eclectic line-up, which doesn't include a single Sir. So no Sir Tom, no Macca, no Cliff, not even Sir Elton, left. You have to ask: is this a reflection on their performances at the Jubilee concert? But the question remains: have some of the great figures of rock nobility been cast aside? It seems strange, and possibly unwise, to be going into such a big public event without the collossi who have bestrode British music for decades.

But Olympic organisers clearly have a plan, and any show that includes the Coldstream Guards playing Blur's "Park Life", a parade of models including Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, Darcey Bussell dancing and lollipop ladies stripping down to their union jack skimpies sounds like they have tried to cover a lot of bases.

All we need is a zealous official invoking a by-law that prevents displays of individual artistry in a built-up area and this celebration of Britishness will be complete.


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