SHEFFIELD hits-maker Eliot Kennedy today sung the praises of Diamond Jubilee concert organiser and best pal Gary Barlow after they topped the pop charts and performed for the Queen, writes Graham Walker.
The 43-year-old and his Take That superstar friend recorded and co-produced the official Jubilee song, Sing, on a tour of the Commonwealth.
It topped the album charts on Sunday evening and the single then topped the iTunes download chart.
They celebrated playing it live on stage outside Buckingham Palace, surrounded by musicians and singers who perform on the track, flown in from around the world - including the African Children’s Choir, including soloist Lydia who opens and closes the song, Aboriginal guitarist Gurrumul, the Slum Drummers from Kenya’s Kibera slum, who made their instruments out of rubbish and Gareth Malone’s Military Wives choir.
The three-hour show also featured showbiz icons including Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sir Tom Jones, Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Shirley Bassey and Stevie Wondern and a host of comedy stars, including Peter Kay, dressed as a Beefeater.
Eliot, who has written for and produced some of the biggest names in pop, including Aretha Franklin, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, admitted even he found it surreal backstage with such a star studded bill .
“Well if hanging with Peter Kay isn’t enough, Paul McCartney rocked up to chat, then Stevie Wonder passed by on his way to the stage. Usual Monday night really,’’ he laughed.
“Walking back to my hotel from Gaz’s house in a light rain, I just had to stop and hold my hands up in gratitude for the simultaneous number one single and album, but mostly for the friendship of my amazing best friend Gary.
“There were so many highlights, but it was an amazing experience playing Sing live, with so many of the people we have been around the world to record.”
MORE VIDEO: Eliot Kennedy has turned down global offers to leave Sheffield and is expanding his Steelworks Studios to include The Foundry - where he will shape more pop and rock stars, Watch The Star’s video report - CLICK HERE.
Thousands of people in the Mall and in a specially-built arena turned the area into a flurry of red, white and blue as they waved flags furiously.
One of the most amazing and magical treats came as Madness played on the roof of Buckingham Palace - a projected image appeared to bring down the front of the building, like a huge theatrical curtain, transforming it into a terraced house for their 1982 hit Our House. Lead singer Suggs changed the words and in a posh accent sung: “In the middle of one’s street.”
Robbie Williams had earlier raised the curtain on the concert as he was accompanied by the Corps of Drums of the Massed Bands of the Household Division for his signature tune Let Me Entertain You. He returned later to sing Mack The Knife.
He said afterwards: “It felt amazing. It felt so patriotic, and normally I am a very nervous performer but today for some reason, I think it was the vibe from the crowd and to be with the best of British is a huge honour. And my mate organised it so we had dressing rooms next to each other.”
Sir Paul McCartney, who closed the show with a huge firework display, entertained with Beatles classics including Magical Mystery Tour, All My Loving and Let It Be. He also performed his Bond theme Live And Let Die.
“It was a fantastic spectacle. I don’t know why people think the British are so stuffy when the Queen holds raging house parties like this. You feel quite honoured to come on and do your bit. We love to do our bit,” he said.
“She was asking me about my school up in Liverpool, LIPA, which she came to open. I can never quite believe she remembers it.”
Comic Peter Kay greeted the Queen still wearing a Beefeater costume he had specially made for the occasion, which he had earlier worn on stage.
“She said, ‘Where did you get it?’. I had it made for £100, in Rawtenstall.
“It was an amazing event. It was surreal - like a big posh school play.”
In keeping with the Queen’s lengthy reign, Sir Cliff Richard drew on hits from across each decade of his career - which stretches back to 1958.
Dressed in a beige suit, the youthful music veteran performed songs such as Devil Woman, Wired For Sound, We Don’t Talk Anymore and even Millennium Prayer, accompanied by footage of the Queen from her early life. But it was his 1968 hit Congratulations that had the crowd back on their feet and waving their flags.
Sir Cliff said: “I found it fantastic. The most wonderful, wonderful celebration. I’m sure the Queen was really thrilled and the crowd were ecstatic. I’m amazed I keep getting asked back to these things, but I suppose I represent all the decades of her reign.”
Ed Sheeran, who performed solo unlike many of the big production numbers, said: “It was a pretty nice experience. I took up the guitar the day after I watched the jubilee concert 10 years ago. I started after seeing Eric Clapton - I can’t believe I am here 10 years later.
Cole said of the day: “I’m just honoured to be here - firstly to sing for our Queen and be part of such a special day, and secondly to sing with Gary Barlow. I feel blessed to see her.”
Jessie J told the Queen: “It was overwhelming - it was an amazing experience.
Earlier, JLS performed hits Everybody In Love and She Makes Me Wanna, although they failed to keep the crowd on their feet.
One of the most bizarre performances of the night came as style queen Grace Jones performed her entire hit Slave To the Rhythm with a hula hoop, without it slipping.
The star - wearing a black and red headdress throughout - kept going for four minutes, before letting it fall to the floor at the end of the song and bellowing: “We love you - happy birthday, our Queen.”
Annie Lennox also upped the drama to perform her Eurythmics chart-topper There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart), while wearing a silver sequinned gown and angel wings. The backing band - and conductor - wore matching wings.
Veteran Australian star Rolf Harris joined in the spirit by wearing a shirt bearing the Union flag.
“G’day - do you like the shirt? I painted it the other night,” he said to the crowd.
“What an absolute pleasure for me to be here. I’m absolutely thrilled. I moved to London 60 years ago so my time here has completely overlapped the Queen’s reign. I think she’s looking better than me, by the way.”
Harris recalled painting a portrait of the Queen and said: “It’s been the highlight of my career.”
Another star of The Voice, Sir Tom Jones, showed he has become a national treasure by getting the crowd on their feet once more for Mama Told Me Not To Come. But the crowd really went mad for his flamenco version of Delilah.
He told the crowd: “This is a fantastic feeling to be here tonight for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I was here 10 years ago for the Golden Jubilee. We were at the back of the Palace - and now we’re at the front. So that’s how it goes.”
As the Queen took her place in the royal box, there were ripples of “Bless her” as she waved to the arena.
Presenter Lenny Henry told the audience to turn to the royal box “and say with one voice, you just missed Tom Jones”.
The first act the Queen caught was a return for Robbie Williams in a dinner suit performing Mack The Knife and changing the lyrics to include a reference to the royal box and Eugenie.
Fittingly, Dame Shirley Bassey performed her Bond theme Diamonds Are Forever, with the palace becoming a giant projection screen as images of spinning jewels were beamed on to it.
Pop princess Kylie Minogue became a pearly queen as she took the stage in hot pants and cap to sing Spinning Around and another of her number one singles Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.
She was joined by street dance crew Flawless to play a further song, Step Back In Time, and by female dancers in swishy Horse Guards-style helmets for All The Lovers.
The focus shifted to the palace as Alfie Boe and Renee Fleming duetted on There’s A Place For Us from a balcony on the front of the building.
Sir Elton John sounded as thought he was battling through his performance just days after fighting back from pneumonia. The star, wearing a fuchsia sequinned tailcoat, warned earlier that his lungs were still delicate.
“I’m back to fighting fit. It’s the lungs - my voice is no problem,” he said prior to the show.
The chart veteran’s set included hits such as I’m Still Standing and Your Song from his 40-years-plus career. And for Crocodile Rock the Palace was bathed with the words “La la la” to encourage the crowd to sing along.
Rolf Harris sent a message from the stage wishing the Queen “a happy, healthy and long reign - and, from the heart, we hope that today has been a beautiful day”.
Harris bravely led a sing-along of Two Little Boys alone, but suffered an “Adele” moment when he was cut off in his prime by Lenny Henry, who told him it was time for the next act. But Harris rounded it off by completing the last line.
Stevie Wonder warmed up the crowd with his hits Sir Duke and Isn’t She Lovely, but it was Happy Birthday they wanted to hear. He was joined on stage by Will.i.am for the track, which was originally written to honour Martin Luther King, but seemed apt for the royal celebration.
The Queen closed the concert by lighting the last of several thousand beacons. She was accompanied by other members of the Royal Family on stage, where she joined the star-studded celebrity cast and the Prince of Wales paid a heartfelt tribute - first addressing her as “Your Majesty”, then “Mummy”, which brought a huge cheer from spectators.
He said there was a sad element because his father, the 90-year-old Duke, was being treated in central London’s Edward VII hospital for a bladder infection. He asked spectators to give him a huge cheer he would hear in his bed and the crowd did, many stamping their feet, with chants of “Philip, Philip”.
Charles, who also led three cheers for the Queen to bring proceedings to a close, first told her: “A Diamond Jubilee is a unique and special event, some of us have had the joy of celebrating three jubilees with you, and I have the medals to prove it.
“And we’re now celebrating the life and service of a very special person, over the last 60 years.
“I was three when my grandfather George VI died and suddenly, unexpectedly you and my father’s lives were irrevocably changed when you were only 26.
“So as a nation this is our opportunity to thank you and my father for always being there for us.
“For inspiring us with your selfless duty and service and for making us proud to be British.”