Ear plugs at the ready, Ma'am! Kylie, Tom Jones and Robbie Williams... But who'll be picked to perform God Save The Queen?
By ALISON BOSHOFF
26 May 2012
The Queen’s choice is Sir Cliff Richard, 71, who is going to serenade her with Congratulations.
And the Duke of Edinburgh has apparently requested Dame Shirley Bassey, the diva’s diva who is still going strong at 75. She will sweep into London from the tax haven of Monaco, where she lives.
Indeed, despite the inclusion of bright young things JLS and Jessie J, Bank Holiday Monday’s Diamond Jubilee concert is aimed squarely at middle-aged Middle England.
The performers, who include Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John, will play to an audience of 10,000 on a specially constructed stage on the Victoria memorial in front of Buckingham Palace.
Line-up: Kylie Minogue is tipped to sing the Anthem. Shirley Bassey was apparently requested to perform by the Duke of Edinburgh
That alone has cost £200,000 to put up and the BBC has spent a further £300,000 on spectacular lighting.
The three-hour extravaganza will be broadcast live on BBC 1 and Radio 2 from 7.30pm.
As you might expect, the mix of input from the Palace, the BBC and the creative approach of the rock industry has been at times incendiary.
There have been terrible rows over who — if anyone — will be willing to sing God Save The Queen, and mutterings of dissent between the artists, not all of whom are the best of friends.
For instance there was talk of Jessie J and Tom Jones, both judges on BBC’s The Voice, being kept apart after it was suggested that their on-screen rivalry had spilled over into real life.
But Jones was at pains last week to talk of his fondness for his high-maintenance co-star in a radio interview.
And some performers don’t get on with Annie Lennox, who has a reputation for being intense to the point of rudeness.
While the BBC says there have been no discussions about the National Anthem, it is rumoured that Sir Paul McCartney let it be known he did not wish to sing it.
Lancashire operatic tenor Alfie Boe is the favourite to take on the job.
The BBC insists it’ll be performed in a way the audience will find ‘unexpected’ — which usually means it’ll be a duet, perhaps with Kylie Minogue, who is famously easy-going.
It is no surprise that those who’ve agreed to play have been told rather sternly they are to behave on the big day.
Even their backstage demands have been kept as simple as possible. So far, Macca has asked for vegetarian food and incense, and Elton is said to want Diet Coke in cans, San Pellegrino water and ‘relaxed’ lighting. (Coming from someone as high-maintenance as Elton, that’s virtually agreeing to do the gig in bare feet.)
Jessie J has asked for salt-and-vinegar Snack a Jacks and mint tea, while Kylie just wants herbal tea and honey.
Sir Tom has put in for his usual rider — French white wine of a decent vintage and black hand towels to mop up sweat (white ones become too grubby from melting stage make-up.)
The performers - including Robbie Williams and Tom Jones - will play an audience of 10,000 on a specially constructed stage on the Victoria memorial in front of Buckingham Palace
But what about the music?
Sir Cliff Richard has been told the artists have six minutes each.
Gary Barlow, creative head of the venture, says they have been told to play music that is positive and uplifting, that there will be ‘zero tolerance’ for any bad behaviour, and they aren’t being paid a penny.
You can’t imagine Sir Cliff falling foul of any of these rules, but there are still a few issues and wrinkles.
As of this week, Sir Elton apparently wanted to play Candle In The Wind, the ballad forever associated with the late Princess of Wales after he played it at her funeral.
They were close friends, and it's thought he wants to sing it to reflect her importance at this event, which will be attended by Princes William and Harry.
However, there is nervousness in some quarters about how it might go down at the Palace.
One of Elton’s friends sighed: ‘I don’t know if he’s doing it. It all has to go through Gary Barlow. At the moment it changes every hour.’
The concert will cost £4 million to stage — stumped up by the BBC, which has the broadcast rights. Producer Dickinson says she’s confident it’ll make money from sales in Japan, Germany and across the Commonwealth. In the U.S., the event will be screened on ABC.
The BBC has hired renowned designer Mark Fisher, who has previously worked with U2 and The Rolling Stones, to make the stage as spectacular as possible — more so than the Golden Jubilee concert.
That kicked off, of course, with Brian May famously performing God Save The Queen on the roof of the Palace.
May says he’s not been invited this time: ‘No, we haven’t been asked at all, which is a shame.
Paul McCartney apparently demurred at the suggestion he should sing the Anthem. Jessie J has asked for salt-and-vinegar Snack a Jacks and mint tea for backstage
‘Maybe next time we will, the one after Diamond, whatever that is. I don’t know how they’re going to top the Golden Jubilee event, but that’s Gary Barlow’s problem. They’ll have to drop him from a helicopter or something.’
Indeed, it is quite a problem. For although Barlow made some rather confident noises about only wanting ‘world-class’ performers there is a long list of some of the best British stars who are simply not going to be there.
Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton and Ozzy Osbourne performed a decade ago at the Party At The Palace for the Golden Jubilee — but won’t take part this time.
Ozzy’s spokesman says he wasn’t even asked; Clapton’s just that he’s not going to be there.
And The Rolling Stones, arguably our biggest musical export, won’t be, either — a spokesman will only confirm that they are ‘not playing for the Queen or the Olympics’.
In truth Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are at such daggers drawn after decades of an increasingly fractious relationship that they are unable to agree on a touring schedule for their own 50th anniversary this year.
Meanwhile, Adele, Britain’s most successful female singer in decades, has also declined. She, it seems, was not persuaded by Gary Barlow’s approaches.
And even though he made a trip to America earlier this year to try to woo recording stars there, he also failed to secure Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, all of whom were on a wish-list.
Robbie Williams, his former Take That bandmate, did agree to perform, and it’s thought Barlow plans to sing with him at some point, though he is not going to have his own slot on the running order.
Princes William and Harry also wanted to see Jay-Z on the bill, but again he turned the Queen down.
There's a hope the Prince Harry might make a surprise stage visit to shake a tambourine when Gary Barlow performs Sing.
That should at least make the Queen smile. For there are some signs that, at 86, she’s not completely in the mood for a pop festival on her doorstep.
Barlow does not expect her to attend the whole show, and thinks she will probably only stay to hear Sir Cliff.
In a TV interview he said: ‘The first thing she asked me was: “What time does the concert finish?”
I said: “Oh, about half past ten, your Majesty.”
I said: “Oh, about half past ten, your Majesty.”
‘She said: “How long does it take to take down all the equipment then?”
I said: “About seven hours,” and she said: “So they’re going to be taking it down all through the night, so all my family who live at the front of the Palace are going to be kept awake all night?”
I said: “Yeah”. It was really awkward!’
It should be noted that at the Golden Jubilee concert which overran she was present only for the final hour and a half, and even then was wearing ear protectors.
This time around, despite the best efforts of Barlow and numerous meetings about the project, again she seems unlikely to be entirely approving.
Barlow said: ‘She chooses when she comes and goes, so she’ll probably be heading out when I start to sing and back when Cliff starts to sing,’ he said.
It all sounds like a right royal headache.