Royal music events are a peculiar beast. Last year’s Platinum Party at the Palace was an eclectic affair, with the lineup – George Ezra, Elton John, Rod Stewart – seemingly pulled at random out of a “royals-friendly” ballot. The coronation concert, which comes a day after King Charles III and Queen Camilla were crowned at Westminster Abbey, is very much the same.
Of course, there have been plenty of rumours that the reason tonight’s billing at Windsor Castle is a hodgepodge of US pop, classical and dad-rock is because organisers struggled to attract the real megastars. Among those said to have turned down the event were Ed Sheeran, Adele, Elton John, Harry Styles and the Spice Girls. Oddly, Sheeran is now filling in for Katy Perry as a judge on American Idol, but his absence is more likely to do with the fact that he’s only just disentangled himself from winning a major plagiarism lawsuit. Others, meanwhile, might have been less keen, given each star is limited to just one song. It’s hard to imagine kicking Adele off the stage after a solitary “Hello”.
So instead we have Olly Murs, who bounds up and down the purpose-built stage like a toddler who’s eaten too many Haribo. Lang Lang, by comparison, is dignified yet passionate as he plays a grand piano medley of film soundtrack classics, including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. He later introduces Nicole Scherzinger for her debut live performance of “Reflection”, from Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan. It’s a truly mesmerising moment, reminding us that Scherzinger is capable of some incredible vocal gymnastics (even if she is weighed down by some very flashy diamonds).
In the same vein as the Platinum Party, tonight’s event is a breathless onslaught of one inexplicably random performance after the other. Tiwa Savage is introduced by our host, Hugh Bonneville, who sounds hilariously unconfident describing her as the “Queen of Afrobeats”. Any sense of dignity from the Downton Abbey star is lost as the stage is crashed by Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, the latter torn between wanting to sit in the royal box and finding a member of the nobility to elope with.
A wobbly Lionel Richie warbles “Easy Like Sunday Morning” (what else?) at the grand piano before someone recharges his batteries in time for a rendition of “All Night Long”, which gets everyone (Charles and Cam included) up and dancing. Prince William, delivering a poignant tribute to his father, just about gets away with a gag about not going on all night.
In a nod to King Charles’s love of the arts, we also get a ballet and theatre medley starring Doctor Who’s Ncuti Gatwa, who makes for a wonderfully charismatic Romeo in a resplendent gold suit. Celebrities also pop up at random on the big screen – Richard E Grant, Alan Titchmarsh, Hugh Jackman, Winnie the Pooh – to share their favourite things about our new monarch, from his passion for the environment to his love of painting.
Never one for subtlety, headliner Katy Perry turns up in a Quality Street wrapper and belts out “Roar” beneath a CGI tiger’s head. Her fellow headliners, Richie and Take That, simply can’t compete, but they do their best. Take That are wheeled out right at the end, some of them looking oddly frail as they dad-dance to the insipid ballad “Greatest Day”, made even worse, if that were possible, by superstar DJ Calum Scott’s tinny synth-based remix. Mark Owens in particular seems to struggle to hit the right notes, sounding more like the dearly departed Bernard Cribbins than a Nineties boyband star.
There’s absolutely no clear theme to the evening. Take That are suddenly engulfed by a flock of Katy Perry lookalikes, resplendent in their very own Quality Street wrappers. A giant whale made up of colour-coded drones swims through the sky. Tom Cruise offers Charles a spot as his wingman. It’s no Glastonbury, sure. But it was a lot of fun.