London Olympics closing ceremony: When to watch, what music you may hear

The Spice Girls, clockwise from top left: Sporty (Melanie Chisholm), Ginger (Geri Halliwell), Baby (Emma Bunton), Posh (Victoria Beckham) and Scary (Melanie Brown).
(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

The opening ceremony of the London Olympics had the queen, with Daniel Craig as James Bond as her escort, depicted as parachuting into Olympic Stadium. Sunday’s closing ceremony will likely have Posh Spice.

If the referenced British cultural institutions are very different, one thing is certain: Music will again play a pivotal role in the show. The opening ceremony for the London Olympics was nearly five hours of continuous music, and Sunday’s show will be shorter but also packed with song.

After all, it is titled “A Symphony of British Music.” Expect, however, the tone to be drastically different, as the architects of the July 27 launching celebration, director Danny Boyle and electronic act Underworld, are not returning.

Like Boyle, closing ceremony artistic director Kim Gavin has roots in pop music. One of Gavin’s biggest projects was the 2009 reunion tour of British boy band Take That. He also directed the Concert For Diana in 2007 at Wembley Stadium, an event that featured the likes of Elton John, Kanye West and Duran Duran, among others.

So when it comes to large-scale concerts, Gavin knows what he’s doing. But his credits lean more populist than those of “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire” director Boyle, who peppered the opening ceremony with music from the likes of the Sex Pistols, the Jam, the Clash, Dizzee Rascal and Emili Sande, although to catch the latter you had to be watching the opening ceremony somewhere other than NBC.


Like the opening ceremony, much of what will happen Sunday is being kept under wraps. Most of what is known is either a rumor or has been confirmed to an UK publication via an anonymous source, but some hints, especially regarding the music, have begun to trickle out. Here, we look at some of the acts those overseas media outlets have reported to be performing on Sunday.

Oh, and here’s the fine print on how to watch it: the closing ceremony will air in on NBC in prime time on Sunday from 7 to 10:38 p.m. PDT. But if you want to be assured of seeing all of the musical performances (as NBC’s editors cut numerous musical moments out of the opening ceremonies), various versions of the BBC broadcast are available online beginning about noon.

Now, onto the music.

The Spice Girls. Sporty, Ginger, Posh, Baby and Scary have apparently reunited once again, and this time they are expected to perform on perhaps the biggest stage of their career. The appearance will also help promote an upcoming Spice Girls musical, which is set to open in London at the end of this year.

Are we excited? Kind of, yeah. After two weeks of NBC attempting to make high drama out of the dreams of a 17-year-old gymnast, and wasting hours trying to get someone, anyone, to take beach volleyball seriously (still don’t), the guilty-pleasure silliness of watching the likes of Victoria Beckham and Emma Bunton once again playing the roles of goofy girl-band stereotypes will be something of a relief.

The Who. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend spoke at a pre-Olympics press conference about composing some new music for the closing ceremony. Here’s betting it somehow goes into “Baba O’Riley”

Are we excited? Not in the least. Any live performance from the Who simply screams “too soon” after the horror show that was the 2008 Super Bowl halftime show. Daltrey and Townshend tried to do pack in too much, too fast, and there’s sometimes a thin line between offering proof that one is never too old to rock and simply trying to relive past glories.

Muse. The theatrical British rockers wrote the theme song for the London Olympics, but Boyle, with one exception, pretty much kept the opening ceremony Muse-free. Word is they’ll perform “Survival” on Sunday.

Are we excited? Nope. Muse, throughout its career, has time and time again shown the dangers of excess. “Survival” is no different, as it has cinematic strings, Broadway finger-snaps and gargantuan guitars. And then there’s the lyrics, which twist sports imagery into a battle of good vs. evil.

Adele. The British singer remains the biggest star in the world at the moment, More than a year after its release, her “21" is still in the top 10 on the U.S. pop charts.

Are we excited? Absolutely. Since undergoing vocal surgery last year, Adele’s performances have become fewer and further between. Each time she takes the stage, then, has become an event. She has a big voice that begs for big stages, and she can get away with singing anything she wants and making it a moment of beauty.

Ed Sheeran with members of Pink Floyd. Sheeran, a little puppy dog of a singer/songwriter, has been talking up this Olympics surprise, although it’s unknown just how many former Pink Floyd members will be performing with him. Look for drummer Nick Mason to join Sheeran on a take of “Wish You Were Here.”

Are we excited? Yes, tentatively. Boyle dug a little deeper when he used a Pink Floyd song in his ceremony, scoring the torch lighting to “Eclipse.” It was stunning, as the song and the flames each glistened in the night sky. “Wish You Were Here” is more obvious, a hammy way to play up the melancholic nostalgia that will mark the end of any successful Olympic Games. All that being said, Sheeran is a rising star in England, and it will be curious to see what he comes up with. At the very least, it should be a pretty sing-along.

Ray Davies. The former leader of the Kinks is expected to perform “Waterloo Sunset,” according to the Telegraph.

Are we excited? If the Olympics can’t get the brothers Davies to reunite, hearing one of the band’s most revered songs, and one that pays tribute to some of London’s most glorious landmarks, will have to do. If any potential musical number during the closing ceremony is likely to inspire viewers to start pricing flights to London, this is it.

Take That. Boy band. Buddies with the artistic director.

Are we excited? Hopefully this won’t close the show. Consider this potential performance when the countdown to Rio de Janeiro 2016 officially begins.


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