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Tuesday, 4 June, 2002, 03:31 GMT 04:31 UK
Partying at the palace
The Queen meets the pop acts
Performers spanned many generations
By Tim Levell, BBC News Online, Buckingham Palace

It was probably the greatest night for British rock and pop since Live Aid.

It had all the right elements: the galaxy of stars, a noble cause and several musical concoctions that will surely never be repeated.

Brian May's opening God Save The Queen set the tone for the evening: bold, dramatic, and ever so slightly iconoclastic.

As this rock God stood atop the symbol of all that is solid and unmoving about British life, he seemed to declare that the Queen was going to have a party, but on the people's terms.

It looked great on TV. In real life it was awesome.

And for the next three-and-a-half hours, the ecstatic crowd clapped and cheered as the royal family of rock went walkabout through five decades of music.

Launch new window : Picture gallery
In Pictures: Stars rock the Palace

The princes and princesses of pop dominated the first part of the proceedings.

S Club 7, Blue, Atomic Kitten and Emma 'Baby' Bunton kept the youthful contingent happy, including a sunglass-wearing Zara Phillips, who rattled the Royal Box a little by boogying to Don't Stop Moving.

Never mind that their performances were sometimes a little thin musically.

What they lacked in vocal prowess they made up in enthusiasm and racy clothing (or lack of clothing, in the case of Atomic Kitten).

Atomic Kitten
Atomic Kitten: appealed to younger fans
Things really began to spark, though, when they were joined on stage by some of their older brethren, the dukes and duchesses of pop, if you will.

Annie Lennox pulled off a surprisingly funky version of Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves, thanks in no small measure to R'n'B trio Mis-teeq.

Tom Jones proved he is still as springy as ever with sparkling versions of Sex Bomb and You Can Keep Your Hat On (performed with Blue).

And Queen's We Are The Champions was a revelation when given gutsy vocals by Will Young.

The usual suspects?

But the evening was defined by rock's kings and queens, who dominated the second half of the concert.

One by one they appeared on stage. Elton John, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Sir Cliff Richard, Joe Cocker and Sir Paul McCartney.

It was an impressive line-up, and had some rousing moments, notably Ray Davis' Lola and the closing version of Hey Jude.

But somewhere deep inside me, it all felt like we've seen it before.

Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart:Thrilled the crowd
It's a bit like going to a wedding and knowing you'll sing Jerusalem. Right and proper, but not exactly revolutionary.

Perhaps the influence of Sir George Martin, one of the chief creative brains behind the event, was on show.

As his over-long musical lecture demonstrated, his passion is clearly for music from the 60s and early 70s.

So, presumably, the slightly bizarre inclusions of Brian Wilson and Steve Winwood, and yet no George Michael, Robbie Williams, Duran Duran or Fatboy Slim.

With the Queen celebrating 50 years on the throne, it seemed odd to have so little from the 50s, 80s and 90s.

Night to remember

And quite why some of the young acts were encouraged to perform (American) Motown standards is anyone's guess.

But let's not get too carried away. Here were some truly magical moments.

The comperes were great (with Lenny Henry causing particular hilarity among members of the Royal Box).

The fireworks, well, I can't imagine that amount of gunpowder normally gets that close to Buckingham Palace.

And as Prince Charles rightly said, both the sound and the staging were faultless: far better, in fact, than Live Aid 16 years previously.

All in all, the best party I've been to in someone's back garden in quite some time.

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03 Jun 02 | Music
03 Jun 02 | Scotland
04 Jun 02 | Reviews
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