An eclectic mix of entertainers, from Take That to Andrea Bocelli, performed a special coronation concert at Windsor Castle in front of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on Sunday (7 May).
Around 20,000 people attended the event, held on the East Lawn of the castle grounds, with the newly crowned monarch watching on from the royal box. Joining the King and Queen were Prince William, the Princess of Wales and their eldest two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
During the concert, William delivered an emotional tribute to his father that recognised the King’s environmentalism and his charity work with the Prince’s Trust, in a speech that also touched on his late grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.
Early in the evening, Olly Murs gave an enthusiastic rendition of his pop hit “Dance With Me Tonight” – though it wasn’t until later in the evening, when Richie launched into his 1983 hit “All Night Long (All Night)”, that Charles decided to bring out his own seldom-seen dance moves.
Hugh Bonneville served as the evening’s host, blending well-spoken gravitas with flashes of gentle comedy. For many, the most memorable skit was when Miss Piggy from The Muppets engaged the Downton Abbey thespian in a bit of comic back and forth, before the pair were joined by Kermit the Frog.
Other celebrity cameos on the night were more humanoid, with Hollywood stars including Hugh Jackman and Pierce Brosnan paying tribute to Charles’s love of the arts, as well as his environmental campaigns, in a number of pre-recorded video messages. Alan Titchmarsh championed the monarch’s green thumb, noting that he enjoyed engaging in “handshakes with trees”. Top Gun: Maverick star Tom Cruise, meanwhile, sent a message to the King from the cockpit of his War Bird airplane, telling him: “Pilot to pilot, Your Majesty, you can be my wingman any time.”
Last year, The Independent branded the late Queen’s platinum jubilee concert “one of the most bizarre barrages of random entertainment ever staged”. In many ways, the coronation concert was a similar affair, with acts brought on and off with the eclecticness and rapidity of a scroll through TikTok.
Artists such as Paloma Faith, “Higher Love” crooner Steve Winwood, and the Coronation Choir – an infectiously cheerful vocal group assembled from the nation’s keenest community choirs and amateur singers from across the UK, such as refugee choirs, NHS choirs, LGBT+ singing groups and deaf signing choirs – were among the performers to briefly grace the stage.
Performers were showcased from across the constituent countries (Northern Ireland’s James Nesbitt, Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel, and Rwandan-Scottish actor Ncuti Gatwa among them).
The more classical, instrumental numbers were predictably accomplished, with some dazzling piano playing from Chinese virtuoso Lang Lang one of the standout highlights. After a solo number, Lang Lang accompanied Nicole Scherzinger on piano through a rendition of “Reflection” from Disney’s Mulan, with Scherzinger’s vocal work drawing awed reactions online.
Towards the end of the event, the star factor began amping up. Richie’s two-song cameo followed a sweeping duet of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, sung by Andrea Bocelli and Welsh opera singer Sir Bryn Terfel. The fact that the famous musical number is so closely associated with Liverpool Football Club – supporters of which booed the national anthem during a match this weekend – didn’t escape the notice of social media users.
Katy Perry came on stage in a shiny gold outfit, delivering a performance of “Roar” that had Princess Charlotte singing along. After a short but reverent tribute to the King, she then segued into her 2010 hit “Firework” – an apt accompaniment to the decorative explosions that followed shortly after.
Finishing up the night were Take That, with the group’s first live performance together in nearly half a decade. Gary Barlow and co enjoyed the most extensive showcase of the evening – still only three songs – but, after smiling and gesticulating through “Greatest Day” and “Shine”, yielded much of the spotlight to The Choristers of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle for the final song, “Never Forget”.
BBC One’s coverage of the event ended abruptly after Take That’s final song, while revellers who attended in person were left to make their journeys home shortly after 10pm. As the final notes of “Never Forget” rang out, viewers at home were left to consider just what the reign of King Charles III might mean.