Queen Elizabeth and Concerts: The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, One Direction and More
Fifty years ago on this date, The Beatles debuted its new film, Help!, in London and there was a very big name in the crowd at the debut: Queen Elizabeth II. This constituted arguably the greatest gathering of famous British-folk in the last century, while also demonstrating that the monarch was more than happy to take in popular entertainment along with her constituents (a fan site for the Royal Family notes that she has considerably more "lowbrow" taste than her husband, Prince Philip). If you need more proof of the Queen's enjoyment of popular music, here are some more instances from recent (and not so recent) years:
The Royal Variety Performances
The Royal Variety Performance show was established more than a Century ago by King George V as both a means of entertainment and charity fundraising. It's been held every year since, and is traditionally attended by the monarch of the time, or a member of the Royal Family in his or her steed. The event is truly one of the most extravagant concerts of any given year. Queen Elizabeth has attended 34 times during her reign, although she hasn't been able to attend in the last two years (although her husband showed up during 2013), but the last iteration she saw was quite the show: One Direction, Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams were among those representing the Commonwealth, while Andrea Bocelli and Neil Diamond brought some "international flair" for the event, held at Royal Albert Hall.
Party At The Palace (2002)
Remember what we said about The Beatles and Queen Elizabeth being in the same theater was the tops for British celebrity in one room? We changed our mind. The monarch was celebrating her Golden Jubilee, representing 50 years on the throne, during 2002. The celebration went on for days, but the highlight had to be the concert held within the grounds of Buckingham Palace. More than 12,000 watched from inside, and a million more from outside the palace. Among the performers gathered: Paul McCartney, Elton John, Queen, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart and members of Black Sabbath, representing the greatest bands to come out of England during her reign (the Rolling Stones notoriously reported the the concert interfered with its current tour). The most talked-about moment came when Brian May, appropriately the guitarist of Queen, played the song "God Save The Queen" while standing on the roof of the palace...the most rock 'n' roll thing ever. The concert was later released as an album, and the British Phonographic Industry sent the Queen a gold record to note its sales (the only time such a thing has occurred). It was a sadder day for S Club 7 fans however, as this was the last performance from the group before it split.
Les Misérables at Windsor Castle (2004)
One can't say that the Queen isn't a good host. She was at Windsor Castle during 2004 and was in the middle of a visit from then-French president Jacque Chirac. Perhaps bored, perhaps wanting to impress the diplomatic guest with her nation's artistic interpretation of his nation, Queen Elizabeth arranged for the cast of the West End production of Les Misérables to come out to Windsor and regale them with a performance. The musical was actually debuted in Paris during 1980, however the British recreation (West End is England's equivalent to Broadway) serves as the inspiration for the musical more viewers are currently familiar with, including the most recent film adaptation. No word on whether Chirac was moved.
Diamond Jubilee Concert (2012)
Yes, traditionally a "diamond" anniversary is celebrated at 75 years, but we're not complaining about a big, free concert, so everyone was alright with celebrating her 60th anniversary as monarch with a Diamond Jubilee (there was also historical precedent: Queen Victoria, the only other Royal to spend as much time on the throne, also celebrated her 60th anniversary with a Diamond Jubilee). Once again, the lineup for the concert was loaded with British talent, organized by Take That vocalist Gary Barlow: McCartney and Elton John were once again in attendance, as well as younger representatives of the Commonwealth's talent pool, such as Ed Sheeran and Jessie J. Stevie Wonder was also in attendance, performing a variety of hits, including "Isn't She Lovely," which he lyrically adjusted to reference the honoree.
So...What kind of music does Queen Elizabeth actually enjoy?
Andrew Lloyd Webber, knighted by Queen Elizabeth during 1992, had the chance to speak with the monarch before a separate event in her honor, and would inquire about her favorite songs. Perhaps her calling of the Les Misérables cast for Chirac as well as the knighting of Lloyd-Webber might serve as a hint, but she's a big musical fan. And what's her favorite? Not Oliver Twist or something similarly British in nature...but Oklahoma!, a play as American as it sounds, created by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Among her favorite songs of all time is "People Will Say We're In Love," the love-in-denial ballad of Laurey and Curly. Another favorite, Lloyd-Webber noted, was "Miss Otis Regrets" from the Cole Porter from the musical Hi Diddle Diddle. That's an interesting choice...as the title refers to the characters murder by a mob as the result of her own killing of a treacherous individual.