01 March 2010


I loved the Closing Ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics...

Lighting the Flame at the Closing Ceremonies at Flickr.com...until the end part.

I wanted to like the whole thing, I really did. I've turned into a total Winter Olympics fanboy in the past two weeks, and I watched it on TV and made my way to several of the Olympic sites. I cheered and cursed and got myself in knots over curling (curling?!) and snowboard cross and hockey and bobsleigh and speed skating, and even events where Canada wasn't in the medal running, like the men's 4x10 cross-country ski relay.

First, let me note that the Derek Miller playing guitar and singing with Eva Avila and Nikki Yanofsky early on was not me, though since the camera angle was pretty wide, I probably could have gotten some good mileage from pretending he was. But no, he's won Juno awards and is way more talented than I am.

Anyway, watching the Closing Ceremony on TV today with my family, I liked its tone, happy and respectful when it needed to be, delightfully cheeky beyond that:

  • The "repair" of the cauldron that malfunctioned at the Opening Ceremony, with Catriona Le May Doan on hand to relight it (she missed out on her earlier chance because of the snafu).
  • The informal, casual return of the visibly relieved and tired athletes to the stadium—in a loose, milling throng instead of the regimented blocs of nations from the also-lovely Opening Ceremony a couple of weeks ago.
  • The beautiful seaside figure skating piped in from Sochi, Russia as part of their feature during the event.
  • The spontaneous (and lengthy) standing ovation after Vancouver chief organizer John Furlong's brief but apt tribute to dead Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.
  • William Shatner's Canadian semi-slam poem. I mean, come on, The Shat, my friends! People joked about the idea online beforehand, and then IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED! Awesome. (I just wished they'd beamed him up at the end. After all, Scotty was from Vancouver, you know.)
  • The whole every-Canadian-stereotype-and-the-kitchen-sink production number with Michael Bublé. Loved when the Mountie-ettes tore off his Red Serge uniform, when the giant inflatable beavers appeared, when the hockey players broke into a brawl. I'm not sure everyone around the world got the intended irony, but I don't care. It was hilarious.

Alas, the musical cavalcade during the finale was a disappointment. There is so much more diversity, talent, and power across the Canadian music scene, and much of it was on hand for the free LiveCity concerts during the course of the Games.

But not at the Closing Ceremony. Neil Young played "Long May You Run" as the flame was extinguished. Good job. k-os finished the evening with some of his distinctive and rousing hip-hop. Also good. In between, we got Nickelback, Avril Lavigne, Alanis Morissette, Simple Plan, Hedley, and Marie-Mai. All very mainstream, white, big-selling pop acts.

None of those acts, on their own, was particularly problematic. (Lots of people have a hate on for Nickelback, sure, but like the absent Céline Dion, they sell the records). However, all of them together reflected a profound lack of imagination.

The reaction among Canadians online, which had been mixed before that point, turned savage. Steven Page, former singer of the Barenaked Ladies (he or his old band should have been there), got in some of the best digs:

  • "It's easy to make fun of Nickelback, but there are worse things. And Chad's hair looks nice. Like Katie Couric's."
  • "I have nothing to say about Avril. Except I wish it was Anvil."
  • "Wow. If I just arrived on Earth now, I'd believe that sports were better than music."

Entertainment Weekly piped up with, "Where is Rush? Be cool or be cast out, Canada..." Comments from my friends and other rank-and-file Twitter and Facebook users were less kind. At the end, my friend Ryan pointed me to Parveen Kaler, who summed it up with this:

Think about some of the other options: Sloan, Blue Rodeo, Spirit of the West, Stompin' Tom Connors, Arcade Fire, Jessie Farrell, Tegan and Sara, Matthew Good, Alexisonfire, Bruce Cockburn, Hot Hot Heat, K'Naan, The Trews, Paul Anka, D.O.A., Mother Mother, Skydiggers, Lights, Sarah Harmer, Robbie Robertson, Metric, Diana Krall, The Tragically Hip, Bedoin Soundclash, Jann Arden, The Guess Who, Divine Brown, Odds (with my friend and sometime co-musician Doug on bass), The Stills, 54-40, Sam Roberts, Cowboy Junkies, Colin James, Great Big Sea, Bif Naked, Wide Mouth Mason, The New Pornographers, Shania Twain, Feist, and I could go on. Wouldn't it have been nice to see some of them in the mix?

I'm not even including French Quebec, jazz, country, blues, metal, R&B, folk, reggae, bhangra, and hip-hop artists I don't know much about. Doubtless there's a huge list there too.

So, as with its opening counterpart, I loved the ceremony part of the Olympic Closing Ceremony, and all the staff and volunteers did great work bringing it together. For this fan of Canadian music, alas, its musical finale felt like a fizzle.

Fortunately, the two-week-long street party that several parts of Vancouver have become continues, especially after the big hockey gold medal yesterday afternoon. I bet some of those revelers are singing Nickelback songs too.

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I was one of the marching mounties who came in right before the table hockey game.

The original plan was to have Stompin' Tom Conners play the Good Ole Hockey Song for the table hockey game. We rehearsed the segment with the song, but were told there was an issue with him attending so they music was changed at the last minute.

Disappointing as the segment would have been that much better with him there.

Glad you enjoyed the show Derek.

You know what I loved? I loved watching the closing ceremonies with the folks of Twitter. It was hilarious! The tweeps were honest, shocked, catty, and funny. I too heard Steven Page's comments - and it was great to hear all the suggestions for which Canadian muscians *should* have been on. Earlier today I had a good laugh hearing my parents' reactions to the musical acts. They are in their late 60s and were most disgusted with Nickelback and Avril. My mom did a pretty crazy Avril impression actually...
Re:Susan's comment : I bet your parents just love Nickelback's"Something in your Mouth"! I'm about their age, & it makes me feel nauseous when I see young girls listening to this degrading stuff.
And dear Avril singing how she "can do it better"& wanting to be "your girlfriend".Time she got over her skater-boy phase.

Yes,you're right - Chad's hair did look absolutely DIVINE,didn't it?

Nice you included "The Stills" in all those bands you'd have preferred to have heard.

Jennifer F.,
Kevin, too bad they didn't at least go with a recording of Stompin' Tom. Susan, you're totally right that Twitter made it way more fun, especially the snark. And my parents, who were there, found the ending concert segment tedious and left early, but like me they loved the rest.

Pity there was nothing really show-stoppingly beautiful musically, like k.d. lang at the opening. And I'm a bit sad that lip syncing no longer seems to provoke any disappointment or embarrassment as it did in the days of Milli Vanilli.
I don't general like Nickelback either but the one song I heard I might have actually liked. ::shame::

My big missing musical act was David Usher. I love him.
Artists involved with the Olympics had to sign a contract with this clause:

"The artist shall at all times refrain from making any negative or derogatory remarks respecting VANOC, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympic movement generally, Bell and/or other sponsors associated with VANOC."

Maybe the artists who were "missing" had integrity -- or simply didn't want to participate.
Some of them, sure, but many of them had already performed at various Olympic events over the previous couple of weeks, so they'd already agreed to those terms.
i was also one of the mounties, and we were told that Stompin' Tom wouldn't mind showing up if he was allowed to "smoke" on his way to vancouver. which basically means he wanted a private jet, he really lost all my respect personally because supporting the country is a lot better than showing off how "important" a person might be. but still it's an experience i'll never forget