LONDON -- A slew of Sirs and a bevy of boldfaced pop royals serenaded Queen Elizabeth II at her Diamond Jubilee concert Monday evening in an entertainment extravaganza that delighted a roaring crowd and seemed to please the 86-year-old monarch. (Noticeably absent was the queen's 90-year-old husband, Prince Philip, who was hospitalized Monday with an infection.)
She may have been even more moved at the end of the concert by a harkening bow to her kingdom's history, when she set alight the ceremonial National Beacon, the last of more than 4,000 signal beacons set ablaze across Britain and the Commonwealth countries across the globe.
But her biggest smile came when the musicians, a popular choir of military wives and 200 other singers from the Commonwealth on the stage in front of Buckingham Palace performed the new song, Sing, written to celebrate the queen's 60 years on the throne.
The queen had already heard the song and loved it, says composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who co-wrote it with Gary Barlow, a huge pop star here, when she came to his house recently and heard it at a party there. He says he and Barlow sought to honor someone who has been a constant for so long, and to reflect the queen's love of the Commonwealth in the song.
"And the other thing we wanted on an occasion such as this is that it had to be a simple song that everybody could sing," Webber said in an interview before the concert. Prior to the concert, Webber and Barlow rehearsed the audience in singing the song, which opens with the lyric, "Some words they can't be spoken, only sung."
It was one of the high points of the Diamond Jubilee Concert, headlined by such stars as Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sir Tom Jones, Sir Cliff Richard, Lloyd Webber (made a lord by the queen), and Dame Shirley Bassey. Americans Stevie Wonder, Will.i.am and Renee Fleming were there, as were Annie Lenox, boy band JLS, Jessie J and Kylie Minogue.
Unlike Sunday, during the historic 1,000-ship River Thames pageant, the weather was warmer and dry, not that it would have made a difference to the estimated hundreds of thousands on The Mall who came out to watch the concert on stage or on jumbo screens. People were already setting up camp on The Mall to have front-row seats for the glittering coach procession on the last ceremonial day of the jubilee on Tuesday.
Ten thousand people, who won tickets through a national lottery, had seats at the concert, and many of them also attended a garden party in the palace garden earlier in the day.
"It was a wonderful kind of commission to have, but one had to think quite carefully about it, it's a live performance, and I'd be lying if I said I was not nervous," Lloyd Webber joked.
Sir Elton John told reporters he was thrilled. "I'm so glad I'm doing this," he told SkyTV. "I'm more jazzed about this than anything else" he's done in years. He sang Your Song, I'm Still Standing and Crocodile Rock.
McCartney performed Live and Let Die, plus some Beatles classics.
Bassey sang her classic Diamonds Are Forever.
The concert ended on a high note. McCartney performed Magical Mystery Tour and All My Loving with the audience on its feet. It was followed by fantastic fireworks displays set off in the forecourt of the palace and elaborate computer graphics projected onto the front facade.
"The queen has asked me to tell you to please leave in an orderly fashion - or she'll be forced to unleash the corgis," McCartney joked.
After McCartney's set, the queen, in a gold dress and pearls, and her heir, Prince Charles, and other family members, plus all of the performers - more than 200 in all - came on stage. Charles gave a short affecting speech, calling his mother Your Majesty and Mummy, to the crowd's delight, and telling her she "makes us proud to be British."
He also paid tribute to his father, taken ill and in the hospital, which prompted the crowd to chant "Philip" for a few moments. Then he led three cheers for Mummy, there was a trumpet fanfare from the red-coated palace guards, they all sang God Save the Queen, and the monarch lit the National Beacon.
In the afternoon before the concert, the picnic for guests was created by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and royal chef Mark Flanagan. Picnic hampers given to each guest contained smoked Scottish salmon, chilled garden soup, a new chicken dish inspired by the jubilee, a strawberry crumble made from fruit grown on the royal Sandringham estate and cupcakes by Fiona Cairns, the celebrity pastry chef who made Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding cake last year.
The concert was produced by the BBC, called in by the palace to see if they could top the pop concerts they produced in 2002 that rocked the palace back garden for the queen's Golden Jubilee. McCartney and Richard also performed at the Golden Jubilee concert.
The iconic moment from that event was Brian May of the band Queen playing God Save the Queen on electric guitar from the rooftop of the palace.
For the Golden Jubilee, "we had a classical concert called Prom at the Palace and the other was the pop Party at the Palace," says Ben Weston, the executive producer of the Diamond Jubilee for the BBC. "It had never been done before in the garden, except for the (summer) garden parties. So these were fairly historic events."
This time, he says, they wanted to do something new and bring the concert out in front of the palace. "We wanted to democratize it a bit, make the backdrop the famous palace front facade," he said. "It was a brave decision to bring this enormous concert off so close to the road junction (with the heavily traveled Mall), to build a stage around the statue (of an enormous Queen Victoria), make it part of the stage and part of the graphics."
The concert will be broadcast on WJXX ABC 25 at 9 p.m. Tuesday .