Ahead of the “Coronation Concert” – aired on the BBC on Sunday as the climax of the weekend’s royal celebrations – all the talk was of who wasn’t going to perform. Multiple A-listers (Adele, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles et al.) were reported to have declined official invitations, and their wariness around hitching their brands to what often feels like Britain’s longest-running soap opera, currently scattering followers after a succession of unsavory plotlines, now seems understandable. Tonight, as we were confronted with the concert’s arbitrarily assembled ensemble, it’s clear we were probably only a few refusals away from witnessing the Duke of York bashing a tray with a spoon.

Hopes that the evening would prove a London Olympics-style triumph-over-adversity rapidly dimmed. If these two hours recalled anything, it wasn’t Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, channelling Williams Blake, Morris and Shakespeare, but the justly forgotten closing ceremony, with its eggy whiff of Simons Cowell and Fuller. There was evident relief that Coronation Day’s downpours had relented, yet the clouds parted only to reveal a lot of money had been spent on very slim pickings indeed. “The excitement is definitely building here,” insisted backstage reporter Clara Amfo, striding past a terse police battalion on her way to interview Olly Murs.

Notionally, this was a major event. 20,000 people – charity volunteers, NHS workers and winners of a public ticket lottery – had been invited to join the royals in the grounds of Windsor Castle, under a stage resembling a giant H.G. Wells tripod. MC Hugh Bonneville, pausing between dad gags, reassured us that 100 countries were watching globally. Yet right through to Take That’s promotion over Katy Perry in the headline slot, the result felt cringingly parochial, indistinguishable in its content from the half-time slot on a Saturday night talent show. You half expected to find King Charles and Queen Camilla seated in rotating chairs, behind illuminated buzzers.

Sprayed-on pomp and ceremony abounded: a 200-piece orchestra, sweeping crane shots, Union Jacks in every hand, and a shifting lightshow illuminating Windsor Castle itself. (No sign, however, of Queen’s Brian May, such a stalwart of previous royal shindigs that Channel 4’s expert royal satire “The Windsors” could claim – in its recent Coronation Special – that the guitarist had taken up permanent residence among the squirrels on Buckingham Palace’s roof.) Perry, importing tried-and-tested showstoppers “Roar” and “Firework,” looked the part in a flowing golden dress suggesting a Disney truffle wrapper. (If the U.K. suffers a foil shortage in coming weeks, it will be part Brexit, part Perry.)

Yet despite a high-profile fly-by from Tom Cruise – inviting the king to be his wingman – so much of the show felt trivial and unmemorable. Scene changes were covered with “Did You Know…?” segments in which random celebrities reeled off notionally fun (but largely familiar) Charles facts: the green credentials, the children’s books, the watercolors. Even before Prince William bounded on stage to sing his dad’s praises, the underlying message was clear: Charles is Great. Wildlife presenter Hamza Yassin even revealed the king has a frog named after him: “What a handsome fella!” The frog looked no more or less handsome than any other frog.

More ambitious interactions tended to fall flat. A sequence involving the so-called “Commonwealth Choir” – performing Zoomed-in karaoke to Steve Winwood’s enduring “Higher Love” – didn’t exactly translate on screen. And you don’t, surely, recruit Lang Lang just to accompany Nicole Scherzinger on one of “Mulan’s” duller ballads. Better was the collaboration between the Royal Ballet, Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal College of Art, featuring new Doctor Who Ncuti Gatwa alongside Mei Mac as Romeo and Juliet.

You clung to such small mercies, and the passing moments of old-school showbiz competence. An Andrea Bocelli/Bryn Terfel duet at least introduced singers for whom the king has publicly expressed some fondness. (Even if “You’ll Never Walk Alone” felt like a rebuke to those Liverpool football fans who booed the National Anthem this weekend.) And with a vibrant “All Night Long,” Lionel Richie once again demonstrated he knows how to keep an audience in the palm of his hand. Briefly, the concert felt like a party, with awkward dancing in the Royal Box. The Queen cast a surreptitious glance at her watch. We were 45 minutes in.

Much of it, however, proceeded with no greater rhyme or reason than the James Nesbitt poem that built to the payoff “Please welcome Paloma Faith.” Who needed Adele? This was culture as interchangeable primetime pabulum; three minutes apiece for the acts to impress the new judges and boost sales. Great for them, of course. Not so reassuring for any commoners, faced with an ongoing cost-of-living crisis and swingeing arts cuts liable only to seal the drawbridge shut. As an illustration of the muddle the Windsors now find themselves in, the concert was second to none. But if I were a new monarch trying to rebrand the royal family, pointless extravagance wouldn’t have been my opening gambit.

The Coronation Concert is now streaming on the BBC iPlayer.

Production: BBC Events.

(Pictured: Take That)