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:
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:
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.