It would be, said Huw Edwards confidently, “the biggest concert in living memory”. He was talking about The Diamond Jubilee Concert, but I didn’t know how he could be so sure, not after The Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant the day before.
What a right royal cock-up that was: Fearne Cotton getting war veterans’ names wrong, Tess Daly being vacuous underneath a pineapple fascinator, Clare Balding waving from a rowbarge prow and spectators in the mist believing she was the Queen, none of the presenters knowing semaphore, HMS Belfast’s tonnage being given as 91,000, almost nine times the actual weight.
The BBC’s coverage on the Sunday sunk like a 91,000-ton warship and less than 24 hours later the Corporation was pinning hopes on Sir Cliff Richard, Cheryl Cole’s sheer unmitigated talent nullifying the blowing of her cover as the “secret guest artiste”, the “humour” of Lenny Henry, the “humour” of Lee Mack and Grace Jones dressed in a hula hoop. This I had to see…
I knew there were people, friends of mine, who definitely wouldn’t be watching, fearing too much red, white and blue and too much deference. But why couldn’t they see beyond all the flags to the performers? I can do this, just as I can flick past all the naked women in Playboy and read the articles. And while it’s true that none of the comedians came close to risking a beheading, there were plenty of gags at the Royals’ expense. It has to be said that the poshest funster, Miranda Hart, was the least effective, as if all that good schooling has left her too much in awe of jewellery-rattlers. But the posher-still Michael McIntyre was nowhere on Monday. Hurrah!
So, some random observations: Robbie Williams, who seemed pretty unhinged just a couple of years ago, reclaimed the crown of the born entertainer. He actually sounds better for having those cracks in his voice, each of which could probably tell a story of three. Some of the other young and young-ish performers, though, delivered ropy vocals and all of them were blown away by The Voice (Tom Jones).
Also: the Countess of Wessex may have the most contemporary record collection of the jewellery-rattlers (possibly only record collection). Ed Sheeran perhaps could have chosen a more apt song than one about a drug addict. Sir Clifford of Richard: what gynaecological shade of pink was that suit, exactly? Lenny Henry: the funniest he’s been in ages (“The people right at the back of the Mall probably think we’re opening a new branch of Ikea”). Madness on the Buckingham Palace roof: terrific (“Our house/In the middle of one’s street”). The official jubilee ditty: better than We Are the World anyway (and it was probably going to clinch Gary Barlow a New Year honour until he tried to help the Queen on to the stage). Grace Jones: barking! Annie Lennox: barking!
You might have thought that all the Beeb had to do this time was point its cameras at the stage but, just as the opening of Tower Bridge had been missed the previous day, there were more than a few bad cuts. We were denied Prince Harry’s expression for Lee Mack’s joke about his beer stash and we should have been back at the royal box when Robbie reworked Mack The Knife thus: “Cheryl Cole, that girl from TOWIE/Princess Eugenie and young Beatrice too.” Right at end whoever was editing (Mack the Knife?) pulled away too quickly from the Prince of Wales kissing his maw. I’m no slavering royalist, just a TV producer’s son and therefore a stickler for detail.
There’s not much space left this week, but I must tell you about All In The Best Possible Taste With Grayson Perry: it’s fantastic. The artist is investigating taste among the social classes and he began with the working class of Sunderland, marching straight up to cage-fighters, football fans, hot-rod nuts and the multi-tattooed – pretty brave for a potter who’s also a transvestite, although he saved the frock for his night on the town with the girls. Perry has a way with a spidery felt-pen; a way with words, too. To those who might look down on clubland crooning as sentimental slush, he asked: “Do you cry a more vintage kind of tears at Glyndebourne?”
He asked great questions and got great answers from people who probably didn’t think they had taste. Their reaction to being shown his tapestries of their lives was really touching. And down in the Jägerbomb bars with the big-haired, big-heeled and big-boobed, he seemed to have pulled. “You look better than 25 per cent of the lasses here,” said a lad with a pint in his hand, who pointed to his drink and added: “Four more of these would do it.”