Friday, July 6, 2012

'The Shard' Opening Laser Extravaganza Minireview, 5th July 2012

It did not look like this.
Top, up to the minute news from here!  Have just returned from The Shard's opening laser show, which was a let down exactly in proportion to the gigantic size of the building.

We were promised:

"The 309-metre-tall building will send out coloured lasers to 15 of London’s lofty landmarks, including the Gherkin, London Eye and Tower Bridge. The extravaganza will be soundtracked by Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and the Finale from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, performed live by the London Philharmonic Orchestra."

Needless to say, this didn't happen.  Having made my way down to the Thames at the Tower of London I quickly found the Thames Path stretch between Tower Hill and London Bridge was closed.  This, to be fair, is not a big surprise as pedestrians generally get shunted between various dusty building sites rather than be able to walk this bit of the Thames Path.  So my friends and I trekked up the river, eventually nestling myself between two buildings just before the Church of St. Magnus the Martyr.  A number of other people had had the same idea, and there were maybe 200 squeezed into this little gap for what we were all sure would be the laser show of our lives.

Lasers have generally been good to me.  From lying blissed out on a muddy field at Leeds Festival in 2001 to uh.. lying blissed out on a muddy field in Glastonbury in 2005, giant green lasers have generally been a comfort to me.  Here is a recent example from Sion Park at their Enchanted Woodland 2011 event:-

Whoo!  Also there was a banging techno soundtrack to this.
These are fun lasers.  What we got from the Shard was more like this:

The disappointment among the crowd was palpable.  Us plebs had been penned into one small space as the toffs were quaffing champagne and caviar down at Billingsgate.  If we tried to peek over the wall burly security guards built like Chewbacca began menacing us.  Our time was further spoiled by several large and low lights installed along the railings that blocked out most of the view in their incandescent fury.  This lead to a rather peculiar sight of about 50 people holding their arms out into the air to block out the light, a sight which we all quickly realised looked a lot like the Nazi salute.  

It looked like this is what I'm saying.
As we stared, our hands outstretched in what felt like a bizarrely appropriate fascist tribute to this monstrous spike some lasers plinked on and off from the tower while we caught faint snatches of classical music from further down the Thames.  It looked like a grand old time just around the corner, the lasers from the tower appeared to be lighting up the building, and they were enjoying the full force of the London Philharmonic.  We had to make do with blinding lights between us and the 'show' and quasi-Nazi imagery.  I suppose this is somewhat appropriate.  This tower isn't for the likes of us.  We are there to look up at it apelike in wonder, our tiny minds barely able to comprehend the lives of those who live at the top of this glass colossus.  If we want to briefly taste the luxury of seeing London from this height, it's £24.95 a ticket.  

A day out to the Tower of London across the river, an amazing experience that can easily eat up a whole day, is £20.90.  For a spin on the London Eye it's 18.90 (or £15 if you book online).  So £25 to get a taste of what it is like to live the high life.  Meanwhile the flats in the Shard are on sale from £30-50 million each, and are so exclusive that the sellers admit there are only a handful of people in the world who can buy them.  These gods among men will enjoy perks like having a mini lift in their kitchen that literally delivers champagne and caviar on tap.  This at a time when London councils are engaged in a campaign to relocate the poorest Londoners to places like Stoke or Hastings.  Out of sight out of mind right?

The classical music petered out almost as soon as it'd begun, leaving us alone and silent, the monolith being illuminated in red, blue and yellow while tiny lasers plinked on and off from the side.  The crowd was growing restless.  It wasn't supposed to be like this.  People started leaving in droves, and soon, what was a jam-packed corner of the north embankment became a bit desolate, with Strongbow cans jangling along the pavement in the breeze.  

And so the Shard was inaugurated, not with a bang but with a whimper.  Not an orgasmic union of light, technology and showmanship, but more a quick, shameful and pathetic spurt onto a hooker's shivering thigh in an alley behind some greasy kebab shop.  

"IN Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
      Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
      The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
    "I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
      "The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
    "The wonders of my hand."— The City's gone,—
      Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
    The site of this forgotten Babylon.

    We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
    Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
      Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
    He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
      What powerful but unrecorded race
      Once dwelt in that annihilated place."

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1 Responses to “'The Shard' Opening Laser Extravaganza Minireview, 5th July 2012”

@garysmi said...
July 6, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Me and a couple of friends booked some space at the top of Centrepoint (Paramount bar) to view this once in a lifetime laser show. At about half ten we were doing the "There *must* be more to it than this" thing and, worried that if we left we'd miss it, waited for another half an hour.

Underwhelmed isn't the word.

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