Yes, this is a transparent attempt to get more visitors by jumping on the Olympic bandwagon. Everyone else if doing it so why shouldn’t we? Besides I want to cover the music played during the opening ceremony and as that was curated by electronic uber-group Underworld it’s quite clearly in our remit.
I’m not going to cover the actual details of the show as it was exactly what you would expect – a bunch of dancey (as in ballet not techno) vignettes that tried to show the culture of Britain, both historically and in the 21st Century. It had some impressive visuals but was mostly pretty silly. What was interesting however was the key role music played in the show. This wasn’t really surprising as Danny Boyle, who was in charge of dreaming up the spectacle, has always been a musically minded director. Trainspotting is a beautiful example of that but his other movies are just as much about the audio as the visuals and his appointment of Underworld as musical directors only confirmed the fact this wasn’t going to be another Gary Barlow led pop-athon.
Still some sections were rather predictable – I mean Mccartney, again? I really don’t know how this country will know it’s time to celebrate once he joins John & George and he’s not around to sing ‘Hey Jude’. The Arctic Monkeys weren’t that much more of an novel inclusion, were Muse busy or something? Though I can’t really moan about the iconic and excellent ‘Chariots of Fire’ (despite the utterly humourless Mr Bean-based attempt to ruin it) but “obvious” is too generous a word.
However most of the rest of the music was much more entertaining. Much of the early sections of the show were soundtracked by new Underworld compositions, mostly lush soundtrack-esque mixes of electronics, orchestral and choral. There was also an excellent section which highlighted the global importance of the UK music industry over the last 50 years with each key moment soundtracked by several classics of the relevant period. It was a superb summation of British pop music.
Even better was the inclusion of a track from Fuck Buttons spinoff Blanc Mass – talk about obscure electronic gems, I was very impressed. Fuck Buttons themselves even got a second track during the athletes parade. Indeed that whole section was very entertaining, whilst visually just an unending stream of overexcited sportspeople, musically it was much more to my tastes. Underworld had drafted in their new friend High Contrast to help put together the tunes and clearly with one eye on global performance royalty cheques they promptly selected seventeen Underworld or High Contrast tracks – with more than a handful being High Contrast remixes of Underworld tracks. Bowie, Pet Shop Boys and a couple of others filled out the list. Still as a fan of all those artists I think it worked quite nicely if edging towards pop-trance a little too much on a few occasions.
Overall it was a nice mix of tunes and, if like me, you were a little too drunk at the time to fully appreciate well worth watching again on iPlayer or digging out the freshly released mix album.