EmptyWembley Stadium, London
Sunday, July 1
By some strange alchemy, the disparate elements of the Concert for Diana, ranging from P Diddy to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tom Jones to the English National Ballet, and Kanye West to Take That, meshed into a memorable six-hour party in London's new Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
The event was organized by British princes William and Harry to celebrate the life of their mother, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 46th birthday but is the 10th anniversary of her death. Even Simon Cowell, one of several celebrities on hand to introduce the 24 acts, gave thumbs up to the future king of England and his brother for a well-produced show. The two appeared onstage twice to speak of their mother and thank everyone, and remained visibly entertained in the posh seats throughout the concert.
Perhaps it was the sentimental recollection of a beautiful lost woman who gave meaning to her empty existence by acts of grace and charity. Maybe it was the curious and anachronistic but spellbinding phenomenon of a community projecting its collective hopes onto a pair of favored and in a way orphaned boys it chooses to call royalty. Or perhaps it was just the determination of 63,000 people of all ages to have a good time in unexpected Sunday sunshine after days of drenching weather in a city on critical alert for acts of terrorism. Whatever it was, it worked.
The eclectic range of artists was said to represent both Diana's favorites and the taste of her sons. They took full advantage of the audience's good mood with Rod Stewart, Jones and Roger Hodgson from Supertramp performing popular hits to loud applause. The crowd yelled for more when aging rockers Status Quo performed just one song, but they were mollified when reformed boy band Take That did three. Duran Duran, Bryan Ferry and Elton John also proved to be crowd-pleasers, and a parade of young stars including James Morrison, Joss Stone, Fergie (from Black Eyed Peas), Lily Allen, Nelly Furtado and Natasha Bedingfield earned their spurs.
Young British rockers the Feeling had the joint rocking and more energy was added by the band Orson, Pharrell Williams and West, who did an athletic medley racing back and forth across the stage wearing peculiar white sunglasses. P Diddy oozed his particular brand of sophistication in a white suit and shirt with black tie accompanied by a string section of beautiful young women playing over heavy percussion. He devoted "Missing You," derived from Sting's "Every Breath You Take," to Princess Diana.
The English National Ballet's performance of "Swan Lake Act 4" earned noisy appreciation, and the medley of Lloyd Webber show tunes featuring Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli and others, while hit and miss, also went over well.
Dennis Hopper, Gillian Anderson, Jamie Oliver, Sienna Miller and tennis champions Boris Becker and John McEnroe, in town for Wimbledon, were among star presenters. London-born "24" star Kiefer Sutherland was given a huge welcome, though the longest standing ovation of the day was reserved for Los Angeles-bound English soccer superstar David Beckham, who appeared overwhelmed by the acclaim.
Bill Clinton and Tony Blair sent video messages, and the show was studded with filmed tributes from people involved in the many charities and organizations that benefited from Diana's involvement.
John opened the show with his earliest ballad, "Your Song," instead of what many people hoped would be a repeat of the version of "Candle in the Wind" that he sang at Diana's funeral. The singer also was due to provide a blowout finale, but his set was truncated by a local noise curfew and a promised closer of "Crocodile Rock" never materialized. Instead, the show ended with a solemn video greeting from Nelson Mandela before the crowd slipped away.