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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 04:22 GMT 05:22 UK
Jubilee tour diary: Royals' rich pageant
Nick Higham on the Queens Jubilee tour
Nick Higham is following the Queen's Jubilee tour
The BBC's arts and media correspondent Nick Higham is following the Queen on her Jubilee tour of the UK.

This is the ninth in a series of dispatches from around the country.


Monday 3 June

The palace gates are opened at 3.30 and instantly the crowds come flooding in.

They are a very different bunch to Saturday's - younger, much less well-dressed (I see only one Panama hat, but scores of people have come wrapped in union jacks of one sort of another) and much less middle-class.

Sir Michael Parker, the pageant master responsible for Tuesday afternoon's processions in the Mall, is here and says he thinks there is less of a buzz, less atmosphere than before the first concert.

My producer and I are inclined to agree with him - until we meet a photographer for one of the daily papers who wasn't here on Saturday, and is absolutely bowled over.

"Isn't it fantastic!" he says. "What an atmosphere, what a buzz."

Overwhelmed and excited

It becomes clear talking to them that Monday's audience are just as overwhelmed and excited at finding themselves here in the Queen's back garden as those who came to the first concert.

Plenty have clearly never been to a pop concert before, like one charming couple in their late 60s from County Antrim.

Their son applied for tickets on behalf of every member of the family - and their names came out of the hat.

Would he not have preferred to come himself? Perhaps, but it was clear he had no chance: mum and dad were determined to be here themselves.

The VIPs arrive - a posse of politicians, including Tony Blair and Cherie, Gordon Brown and his wife, Jack Straw (all in grey suits); Yoko Ono; Sir Richard Branson; media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his young wife Wendy.

Then the royals file in but not the Queen, who will arrive at the palace only for the last hour or so of the concert.

Prince Charles is there with William and Harry, the Duke of York with his daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, Princess Anne, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and Zara Phillips, blonde and bubbly in dark glasses.

Quite what they all make of it is hard to tell.

Ozzy Osbourne on stage
Ozzy Osbourne: Well behaved artist
The audience love it, standing spellbound as Brian May on the roof of the palace strikes up the opening chords of God Save the Queen; swaying deliriously to Queen's We Are The Champions, with Pop Idol Will Young in the Freddie Mercury role; cheering a perfectly behaved Ozzy Osbourne to the echo.

But in the royal box they sit stolidly throughout. The odd handclaps. Cherie Blair is loving it and would clearly prefer to be bopping in the aisles.

But for the most part the royals themselves remain inscrutable - though the Prince of Wales does laugh heartily at Lenny Henry's imitation of him.

Prince William at one point puts his hands in his ears to keep out the deafening noise.

The youngsters probably wonder what all the fuss is about - not only the performers but most of the songs date from the 1960s and 1970s, well before they were born.

Though there are plenty of younger acts like Will Young, Atomic Kitten (Jenny Frost in a dress split to the waist and held on presumably by magic and hidden sticky tape) and S Club 7), they are for the most singing cover versions of pop classics, not their own material.

Different generation

The Corrs have come from Ireland. Two other Irish acts, worldwide stars and veterans of the music business, were also invited but are said to have turned down the gig on political grounds.

The Corrs, who belong to a younger generation, clearly have no qualms.

Like all the other stars they are appearing for free.

The BBC is stumping up the 3m cost of this concert and Saturday's; any money from the sale of overseas TV and radio rights, plus the cash raised from the two million people who called the premium phone lines for tickets, will go to charity.

Not entirely at ease

It is an astonishing evening. Ozzy Osbourne, live at Buckingham Palace? Absurd. Ben Elton in the Queen's garden, telling a joke about pubic hair? Never in a million years.

The royal family has never seemed entirely comfortable with pop culture - and actually they don't seem entirely comfortable tonight.

But no-one watching tonight's concert - whether the 12,000 inside the palace gardens, the reported one million in the streets and parks outside, or the millions more watching on television - will hold that against them.

The Queen arrives, heralded by Dame Edna Everage. She sits through the last hour of the concert - Eric Clapton playing Layla with Phil Collins on drums; Joe Cocker, Ray Davies, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, and a Clapton version of the late George Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Concert finale
Concert was seen by millions
The closing few minutes amount to a tribute to the greatest British pop act of all time, The Beatles.

After the entire cast of the show has assembled on stage to sing All You Need is Love the Queen herself comes on stage, looking ever so slightly bemused.

She walks along the line greeting the stars. The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, William and Harry follow.

The Queen has the presence of mind to stop short just before she reaches Dame Edna (what would the caption-writers have made of that photograph next morning?).

The audience whoop and cheer each time William or Harry gets close to an Atomic Kitten or Emma Spice.

Prince Charles says a few words, and then the Queen is whisked out to the front of palace to be greeted by a million cheering subjects and what is said to be the biggest firework display ever mounted in London.

It is certainly spectacular and loud - the earth shakes with the thumps.


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