King Charles’s Silly Coronation Concert Was a Monarchist’s Fever Dream
When I heard that there was going to be a Coronation Concert at Windsor Palace to celebrate the crowning of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, my first thought was: “Wow, who would voluntarily perform at that?” Some international viewers might have expected the biggest stars the U.K. has to offer, like Adele or maybe even Elton John, Harry Styles, Dua Lipa or Ed Sheeran. But no, instead the baton seemed to fall primarily to people whose management didn’t get the memo that this was the most uncool gig ever: Americans!
Yup, it turns out that there is only one thing more undignified than British people who are completely obsessed with Monarchy: hardcore American royalists. People whose nation was supposedly founded on completely opposing principles but, somehow, have flown across the Atlantic to show fealty to our King anyway.
When Katy Perry was announced as a headliner for this concert, the collective reaction was: Why? Does her publicist hate her? But it seems both Lionel Richie and Perry were part of a deal in return for the King and Queen making a cameo on American Idol. The British press are calling this a “surprise cameo,” of course, because it’s an obviously pre-planned arrangement which somehow feels like a bad deal for everyone.
Sunday’s Coronation Concert did feature some British people, of course. Prince William took time out from the smear campaign against his brother and sister-in-law to do a heartfelt speech in support of his father, which was good of him, I suppose.
Musician-wise, most of the British performers were artists who are much more famous in the U.K. than anywhere else. Olly Murs, for example, is a relative unknown in the U.S., but was runner-up on British talent show The X Factor in 2009. For readers who aren’t familiar, Murs is someone who was practically made in a lab to perform at royal events. He makes the type of inoffensive music that people with “Live, Laugh, Love” signs hanging in their homes play in the background at gender reveal parties. In 2017, he tweeted that there were “gunshots” inside a London department store — causing a national panic — when, in fact, there were no gunshots. Now that he’s left that dramatic era behind, he spends his time performing at events like this, looking a little greasy.
Speaking of The X Factor, Pussycat Dolls frontwoman Nicole Scherzinger was another performer. She is probably more famous in the U.K. nowadays, thanks to her many stints as a judge on Simon Cowell’s TV talent contest. Scherzinger forces us to ask the question: What if high school theater nerds were actually talented and were also unbelievably hot? Her stunning rendition of “Reflection,” from the Mulan soundtrack, was a highlight of the night. You could almost hear the collective gasp of gay men everywhere saying “mother!” as she walked out in a floor-length blue velvet gown and hit the highest of high notes.
Elsewhere, there was an attempt to make the concert feel more high-art and distinctly British by including performances from pretty much everything with “royal” in the title, like the various ballet, Shakespeare, and opera societies the royals are patrons of. By contrast, it was the sketches and linking videos played in between the acts which felt most out of place: Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog joined host Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville, who at times looked like he was being held hostage at the event. One of the videos shown on the big screen featured Tom Cruise in a jet, telling his Majesty the King that he can be his “wingman” any day, which made me question whether I’d accidentally taken a tab of acid.
These pre-recorded segments were where the royal propaganda — designed for the thoroughly King-pilled — was at its most intense. Saying it was “like North Korea” would be not only lazy but also inaccurate because, really, North Korea wishes it was at the U.K.’s level here. A key theme of these bizarre videos was “Did You Know?”, which manifested as a bunch of celebrities — all of whom were clearly desperate to lick the boot hard enough to be made Knights and Dames — queuing up to tell us various complimentary “facts” about the new King. The most undignified of these was probably award-winning artist Tracey Emin, who sat with one of King Charles’s watercolor paintings and tried to suggest it was some sort of artistic feat.
After this, we got to the heaviest musical hitters of the evening. Lionel Richie had even the stony-faced royals (minus Prince Andrew, who must have been enjoying a sweat-free evening elsewhere) on their feet dancing. Even Queen Camilla — who seemed bored and was checking her watch every time the camera panned to her — looked like she was briefly enjoying “All Night Long.”
Richie’s American Idol co-star Katy Perry appeared next. Her presence at Saturday’s Coronation ceremony — where she was seen dressed in head-to-toe pink and awkwardly looking for her seat through a giant hat — became the ceremony’s big meme. Ahead of the concert, I’d say at least 50 percent of my rationale for watching was to see whichever cultural faux pas Perry would inevitably make. But to my surprise, her appearance was smooth sailing.
Perry arrived on stage in gleaming gold, presumably dressed as the plastic bag from her hit “Firework.” In the run-up to the concert, there were polarized fan debates over which song Perry would sing, with fans split into “Team Roar” and “Team Firework” — with a few chaos agents like me hoping for “The One That Got Away,” in memory of Princess Diana. Perry ended up performing both songs and, again, the royals were seen singing and dancing to “Roar.” Despite the occasional screechiness of “Firework,” which she dedicated to the King, Perry did undoubtedly slay in her own “Katy Perry” way. Credit where it’s due — maybe her publicist doesn’t hate her after all.
Of course, the environment was a big feature throughout the Coronation Concert. King Charles was an early adopter of climate change messaging and is a keen environmentalist. A non-singing highlight of the show was drones creating images of endangered species in the sky. The blue whale floating in the night was an undeniably stunning moment, but again it falls into the familiar pitfall as most royal things: hypocrisy. King Charles’ mother secretly lobbied to exempt the royal family from green energy laws. And the tabloids that the royal institution has long depended on — for favorable coverage to ensure its survival — pollute the public sphere with climate misinformation and denial.
As this bizarre and strangely entertaining concert came to a close, we were subjected to a three-song medley by the Final Boss of royal events: Take That. Again, for the unfamiliar: Take That were once a five-piece British boy band who rose to fame in the 1990s, before mounting a huge comeback in the mid-2000s. Now, they play concert tours to stadiums of screaming mothers and grandmothers, and are wheeled out for every royal event, where they look and sound progressively worse each time. Last night, there were only three of them, so by the time we get to Prince William’s coronation it’ll probably just be frontman Gary Barlow creaking and croaking around the stage.
Barlow — a supporter of the U.K. Conservative party — apologized in 2014 after trying to save millions in an “aggressive” tax avoidance scheme. I wonder whether that makes him the perfect performer to close a concert for a King whose vast wealth is partly upheld through exemptions from tax laws that only apply to his subjects. Perhaps it does, because this concert — like the Coronation and Monarchy itself — was a bewilderingly positive and expensive celebration of the belief that we are not all born equal.