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Elton John, Paul McCartney ready for Queen's jubilee bash
LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II will today attend a star-studded show to celebrate her diamond jubilee, a day after huge crowds lined the River Thames to see her lead a spectacular 1,000-boat river pageant.
Elton John, Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Shirley Bassey, Take That’s Gary Barlow and US soul legend Stevie Wonder are all set to perform at the concert in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, the queen’s home.
1980s ska stars Madness will provide the showstopping highlight, singing hit song “Our House” from the iconic building’s rooftop.
Organisers promise an “imaginative” use of the palace, but the focus of the 12,000 crowd and of the millions of expected television viewers worldwide will be on a circular stage around the Queen Victoria Memorial.
Other performers at the event, which will feature a song co-written for the occasion by Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber, include Jessie J, Robbie Williams and boy band JLS.
Elton John said he was “thrilled” to be performing, and hoped the jubilee would mark the “beginning of an incredible summer for Britain.” The queen will not attend the entire two-and-a-half hour show, but will be present for the finale when she will light the National Jubilee Beacon.
Almost 4,000 celebratory bonfires will be lit across the Commonwealth, with the South Pacific island group of Tonga being the first to pay its tribute.
The lighting ceremony will then relay westwards through Australia, Pakistan and Kenya before reaching Britain.
The concert follows on from Sunday’s damp but enthusiastic celebrations as the queen travelled down the Thames on the red-and-gold Spirit of Chartwell amid a water-borne procession of kayaks, steamers and tugs.
More than a million spectators lined the banks of the river to cheer the 86-year-old monarch, who is only the second British monarch to celebrate a diamond jubilee, after queen Victoria.
Heavy rain cleared for the start of the pageant before returning later, though it had no effect on the spirit of the cheering crowds. However, a planned flypast had to be cancelled because of low visibility.
The river pageant was the main event of four days of celebrations for the 60th year of the queen’s reign and street parties were held around the country.
The pageant — the biggest event on the Thames for 350 years — started with the ringing of eight Jubilee bells on a barge and ended several hours later when the last boats completed the 11-kilometre (seven-mile) journey.
The queen, wearing a white hat and a silver and white coat and dress designed by Angela Kelly, was ferried to the barge on the launch of the Royal Yacht Britannia, the ship she dearly loved which was decommissioned in 1997.
She and her husband Prince Philip travelled at the front of the ceremonial barge, frequently waving to the crowds, and laughing and joking with the other royals.
Also on board were Prince William and his wife Catherine, who wore a vivid red dress by Alexander McQueen, the same designer who created her wedding gown.
Spectators lining the banks of the Thames cheered loudly when the royal barge came into sight.
“The atmosphere was brilliant, everyone seemed in a good mood. The queen’s boat was beautiful, really colourful, and Kate looked lovely in red,” said Barbara Barke, a pensioner from Essex, eastern England.
Behind the queen’s barge was massed a flotilla of speedboats, firefighting tugs and historic vessels, including Dunkirk “little ships” that evacuated British forces from continental Europe in World War II.
The armada was led by the belfry barge, then Gloriana, a rowbarge crewed by quadruple Olympic gold medallist Steve Redgrave and injured servicemen.
As the royal barge approached, Tower Bridge opened, lifting its bascules in its own tribute to the monarch.
The jubilee festivities began on Saturday when the queen, a keen horse racing fan, attended the Epsom Derby. -- AFP