On Thursday night, Channel 4 News interviewed Jerub, the Nottingham-based singer tapped to perform with Pete Tong’s Ibiza Classics Orchestra at the Coronation Concert. It wasn’t entirely clear if presenter Matt Frei intended to strike a note of bathos in his introduction, but it certainly turned out that way. The 24-year-old was currently largely unknown, he explained to viewers, but on Sunday, all that would change: Jerub would be performing on the same hallowed stage as huge stars, including Olly Murs.
Here was more evidence that things hadn’t panned out quite as expected for the Coronation Concert: with the greatest of respect to Olly Murs – who seems like a thoroughly decent bloke and has managed to spin out his career far longer than your average X Factor runner-up – if his is the name you’re reaching for to underline the world-shaking star power assembled for a concert to celebrate King Charles III’s ascension to the throne, then said concert is in a spot of bother.
And so it proved. “Over 100 countries are watching around the world!” cried host Hugh Bonneville at the concert’s outset, begging the question of how many of them would turn over when they realised there were no unannounced special guests, that the biggest name the show had managed to attract really was the three remaining members of Take That, and that the main surprise was an appearance during their performance by Calum Scott, Britain’s Got Talent runner-up and author of a weepy cover of Robyn’s Dancing On My Own that was briefly inescapable six years ago.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the performances per se. Jerub acquitted himself very well in the company of sometime Basement Jaxx vocalist Vula Malinga; Katy Perry powered through Firework and Roar; Steve Winwood did Higher Love, accompanied by videos of choirs from around the Commonwealth; Afrobeats singer Tiwa Savage offered a solitary nod to contemporary pop trends.
But not even a spectacular light show, replete with illuminated drones hovering above Windsor Castle, could distract you from the sense that the show was cobbled together from what they could get. “There’s not much that could upstage Nicole Scherzinger!” offered the BBC’s host Kirsty Young, simultaneously making the best of it and rather inviting the response: well, except someone more famous than Nicole Scherzinger, but they all appear to have made their excuses.
It wasn’t so much that the hot young stars of 2023 were notable by their absence – as polls have made clear, the under-40s really aren’t having the monarchy these days, although everyone from Celeste to Sigala seemed to show up for last year’s jubilee bash Platinum Party at the Palace. It was the distinct lack of venerable A-list troupers who dutifully turn out for royal occasions like this. Whither Rod, or Elton, or Queen? Had they really failed to grub up at least one ex-Spice Girl? There was no sign of Nile Rodgers, and how many high-profile events can you say that about?
In a sense, the paucity of stars willing or able to take part meant that the Coronation concert had a focus lacking in the platinum jubilee show, which tried to be all things to all people. The problem was it felt focused on a specific kind of person, and it was the kind of person who’d probably got a petition up when Ken Bruce left Radio 2: Bryn Terfel and Andrea Bocelli singing not opera, but You’ll Never Walk Alone; Lionel Richie filling Easy with decidedly uneasy extempore whoops and yells; the aforementioned Nicole Scherzinger performing a song from Disney’s Mulan with pianist Lang Lang.
The sense of being slightly underwhelmed was less pronounced when concentrated on other stuff: a comedy interlude with Hugh Bonneville, Kermit and Miss Piggy; a passage from Romeo and Juliet performed in tandem by the Royal Opera, Royal Ballet, Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal College of Music and Royal College of Art. It was hard not to wish they’d stuck with that kind of thing, and left pop alone.
The Prince and Princess of Wales have tweeted their enjoyment and it is good that it was enjoyed in some quarters.