The Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle review: Gawd bless Queen Katy Perry

History doesn’t record George Formby rising out of a neon window cleaner’s bucket to perform at the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1952, but those were different times. Recent royal concerts have been brain scrambling barrages of random entertainment seemingly thrown together to distract from the ludicrousness of the institution itself.

This weekend, the nation squandered a month of electricity ration watching £250 million get blown covering a man in gold in the presence of Nick Cave, a spaced-out Ant and Dec and Penny Mordaunt done up like a 25th Century warrior princess. Want to make this look even remotely reasonable? Parachute in Katy Perry.

To his credit, Charles clearly proclaimed that his Coronation Concert should be a somewhat classier affair. On a giant bandstand in the grounds of Windsor Castle, populated by orchestras of military guards and Commonwealth choirs of NHS and lifeboat workers, a coherent tribute to the new monarch’s lifelong environmental work and artistic interests played out at a pleasingly respectful pace.

World class pianists soundtracked gigantic drone whales leaping over the stage, or backed Nicole Scherzinger busting her formidable lungs all over Reflection from Mulan. Opera legends Andrea Bocelli and Sir Bryn Terfel duetted on a shiver-inducing You’ll Never Walk Alone. Royal companies from ballet, opera, drama and art colluded on a magical piece of art theatre based around a scene from Romeo And Juliet. It was part pop concert, part Prom, part South Bank season entitled Britain Eh? Gawd-Bless-Er.

If anything – with Ed Sheeran, Adele and Harry Styles declining to play and Coldplay seemingly only sending their light-up wristbands – the pop offerings paled. Host Hugh Bonneville deserved Oscars galore for declaring the night “overflowing with mega-talent” and then, with unflinching conviction, introducing Olly Murs. Pete Tong provided a rousing rave opening and Nigerian “queen of afro beats” Tiwa Savage delivered some elegant Afro-R’n’B that allowed for nothing as uncouth as a body-wind.

 (via REUTERS)

But Murs’s big band doo-wop number would’ve felt dated in ’52. Paloma Faith chewed her way through Lullaby’s gospel rave sounding too fresh from the swan’s neck buffet. And, from his unnatural, Mark E Smith-like intonations on All Night Long, Lionel Richie might have been replaced by an AI getting Lionel Richie slightly wrong.

Even headliners Take That – looking, despite their track-suit toreador garb, increasingly indistinguishable from Elbow – had a redcoat twinkle about them. Although Shine’s Beatledelic climax still, well, shines and the chorus of Never Forget, with a stage full of Windsor choristers clapping along, hit like a roundhouse out of fog.

But Perry, dressed like a god tier Quality Street, stole the night with her most regal pop selections Roar and Firework, while drone shows lit up the nation and Princess Charlotte finally perked up. If a new Queen was crowned last night – in the royal-gig-hogging, Brian May sense – it was her.

On BBC iPlayer