Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Brits Happen 

Last night was a thrilling event, the sort of hit packed show we all dream of, filled with the excitement and energy that only comes from being live. It celebrated all that was good and fantastic about modern British music while fronted by someone who's pure sex, dressed in the sort of stylishly fabulous wardrobe that very few people can actually get away with. But that's enough about the Long Blondes gig that we were at, we've got the Brit Awards to write about instead, so how did that compare? Let's have a look, shall we?

Opening the show were the Scissor Sisters and I Don't Feel Like Dancing. Last time they played they roped in Jim Henson's Creature Workshop to provide them with a dancing farmhouse and a selection of singing watermelons and were all kinds of aceness, so they really had to go some to beat that. We'd suggest that basing your style on the Thunderbirds, having dancing legs with no apparent upper bodies - except when the camera got too close and spoiled the black on black illusion - having a motion blur effect on Del's guitar and having your own legs warp around like there's no tomorrow is probably covering a lot of your bases. Being the drummer, all Paddy got to contribute to the performance was being a bit higher up than normal.

Hosting this year's event is Russell Brand, a man who seems to spend any time he's not on the airwaves being dragged backwards through any form of greenery he can find. He stands proudly in front of a padlocked heart, presumably to represent how safe the Brit Awards are, although Russell will refer to this as being Robbie Williams' medicine cabinet. Here Russell is being controversial. He will be controversial at various points throughout the night and we'll do our best to keep track of them, though this will be hard as not only will we be shocked to our very core, but there'll be so many of them that we run a very real risk of running out of ink. Indeed, Russell is quick to play up the controversy prospects of the night: "With some of the characters here there could be chaos!", before going on to reel off the names of Liam Gallagher and Amy Winehouse, who are less likely to cause chaos, more an impromptu caterwauling of any of the various songs favoured by the drunk and imbecilic. Russell also introduced the concept of the "Love and Hate stages", a concept which was entirely ignored throughout the night and given that the watching public is largely able to understand that logistics require the need for two stage set-ups without the need for pointless attempts to legitimise it, was completely unnecessary.

The first award for the night was Best Live Act and was presented by Keith Allen, who now seems to see "Being Lily's Dad" as his official job title, even 'hilariously' reading out Lily's name instead of the actual winner. Fighting it out were Guillemotts, George Michael, Robbie Williams, Muse and Kasabian, with the honours going to Muse, who are currently planning to do a gig on the moon as not only does it seem well within the realms of possibility that they could easily sell out the orbiting mass twice over, it's also the only place that Matt reckons they would be able to perform without having their brains scanned by the CIA.

"They are human beings with actual feelings!", lied Russell, as he introduced Snow Patrol, and it's a testament to how low they set their sights that their idea of an exciting, eye catching and thrilling light show was to dangle some 40W bulbs over the stage for their sleep inducing performance of Crashing Cars, a song which, lest we forget, was recently voted the greatest song of all time by Virgin Radio listeners, a subset of people also known as "People who hate music".

More controversy from Russell as he introduced the Best British Breakthrough Artist by using a sex analogy. Will society be able to stand the pressure? This was presented by Jarvis Cocker, who as far as we could tell was doing an impersonation of Jimmy Saville for no apparent reason. The nominees were Corinne Bailey Rae, The Kooks, James Morrison, Lily Allen and The Fratellis. Could there be a more soul destroying set of nominations? It went to the Fratellis, presumably because they have two good songs in their armoury, a whole two more than anyone else on the shortlist, and they celebrated by spraying Irn Bru around with wild abandon. This is because they are Scottish, and it's impossible for anyone Scottish to head south without instantly becoming an embarassing stereotype, which they later cemented by thanking their ma, their da and all their pals.

A controversial, but actually quite funny, reference to friendly fire incidents in Iraq led us to the award for Best International Breakthrough award, presented by Toni Collette who was in Muriel's Wedding which was 13 years ago and so not hugely relevant for tonight's event. Gnarls Barkley, The Raconteurs, Wolfmother, Ray Lamontagne and Orson were up for this, with Orson taking the prize, presumably because the prize had been misannounced and what they were actually rewarding was the Most Irritating One Hit Wonder of the Year. Singer blokey, tonight hiding his baldness under a baseball cap, certainly played up the irritating card, running around the stage like a twat, declaring it to be "awesome" and thanking "all the Orson fans out there". If we had the power, as he presumably does, to influence Orson fans, we wouldn't be thanking them, we'd be telling them to take their own lives, preferablly in an uncomfortable, painful way.

Amy Winehouse was next to perform, telling us that she's not going to go to Rehab. Which, given that her current success, popualrity and ubiquity is largely related to her alcoholism, is hardly surprising. Killing the goose that lays the golden egg is rarely a good idea. Big massive arrows pointed towards where she stood, presumably so that even she, no matter how inebriated she might be, would be able to stand in the right spot, while she messed around with her hair, piled up on her head like a haystack, and played with her dress like a nervous child.

Controversy alert! Russell has now mentioned the Queen's genitalia. By jove, the country wil soon fall into the sea if this manner of thing continues to go on. He mentions this as an aside during his introduction of the Best British Male, presented by Joss Stone. We have a lot of time for Joss, mainly because she has lovely hair, is fond of wearing nice dresses and has a cute Devonshire accent. The Joss who turned up on stage tonight, however, had purple hair, was wearing a dress that had apparently been designed by a hyperactive, colourblind 3 year old and seemed to be labouring under the delusion that rather than being from Devon, she was, in fact, from the Bronx. The nominees were Lemar, Paolo Nutini, James Morrison, Thom Yorke and Jarvis Cocker, with James Morrison taking the prize. "I really did not expect this", he exclaimed, "I really can't believe I'm here". No, nor can anyone else who's brain works properly and finds your unlistenable mewlings to be anethema to their very being. "This is for every singer songwriter who's still playing in pubs", he concluded. Yeah, there's a reason why they're still there, and a reason why you should be too.

Some Fashion Designer and Erin O'Conner, who they claimed was a model, but seemed to be an unadventurous drag queen attempting to look like the girl from Everything But the Girl were up next to give the prize for Best International Male. Justin Timberlake, Jack Johnson, Damien Rice, Beck and Bob Dylan were in the running for this, which we believe is officially known as "Struggling to make up the numbers". Unsurprisingly, Justin took this prize via the medium of the recorded message, wherein he demanded the real trophy and told the audience to stop drinking as they'd get sloppy. Not only is he bringing sexy back, but he's bringing responsible drinking back too.

Next to perform with - yes! - a curtain drop are The Killers, stood in a massive gold box to perform When You Were Young. We were never a massive fan of this song when it came out, but live they really managed to pull it off, turning it into an exciting, powerful and emotional number that almost managed to distract from the awfulness of Brandon's facial hair. It's still no Mr Brightside, though. Mind you, few things are.

Presenting the prize for Best British Female is Jo Whiley, a person for whom only the middle word in that title applies. Amy Winehouse, Corrine Bailey Rae, Nerina Pallot, Lily Allen and Jamelia and bouyed on a wave of hype keeping her going when mere talent alone would already have left her in an awkward sandy mess back on the beach of mediocrity, the prize goes to Amy Winehouse. "Way more rock'n'roll than Liam Gallagher", opines Jo as she hands out the prize, which may well be true, but so's a pebble. And we know which one we'd rather have around. Amy's speech in brief: "Hello? Hello, hello! Thank you, erm, yeah. And, er, erm, yeah".

Ricky Wilson, from out of the Kaiser Chiefs, is a man of few words, and is quick to get on with his job of presenting Best International Female. Christina Aguilera, Nelly Furtado, Pink, Cat Power and Beyonce are fighting for this one, though not cat fighting, she never really stood a chance anyway. In the end it went to Nelly Furtado, who went on stage and declared "Yeah! Got a Brit Award! This is so exciting!". She may well have been being sarcastic.

With a sparkly blue backdrop behind them, it's Take That! Performing Patience! Again! For the umpteenth time! Even the lads are looking a bit bored with it now, with Mark seemingly more distracted by the chandelier hanging above the stage than actually performing. Gary was looking like the sort of person you wouldn't leave your kids with, white Howard was looking more like one of the PG chimps. Jason was just, well, there.

Presenting the prize for Best British Group is Anthony Head from both Buffy and Jade Goody's favourite comedy series, the racist Little Britain. Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, Snow Patrol, Muse and Razorlight are all up for this and it's hardly an awe inspiring line up, is it? We'd back Muse for this, if only because Laura, our Fashion Correspondent, would kill us if we didn't. The Brit organisers, who don't have this threat hanging over them, decided instead to give it to Arctic Monkeys, who appeared via video link dressed as characters from the Wizard of Oz to collect it. Why, those crazy guys, it's almost enough to make you forget the crushing predictability of their music and irritatingly boring lyrics.

It's controversy-a-go-go here as not only does Russell make a drugs reference as he introduces the Best International Album, but Simon Pegg, presenting this prize alongside Nick Frost, manages to swear twice! That'll really get the Daily Mail going. Bob Dylan, Gnarls Barkley, Justin Timberlake, Scissor Sisters and The Killers are up for this, with the latter's Sam's Town taking the trophy. We've not heard it so we have no idea whether they deserve it or not, but Brandon seemed to think they did. Mind you, he may be biased.

For no reason whatsoever, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers came on and did Dani California. Were they really that desperate to fill up the performance slots?

The extremely lovely and the extremely hideous came together as Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Steven Tyler arrived on stage to present the prize for Best International Group. Steven claimed that meeting Russell was "Vuja De" and that he needed to get a haircut, which is a bit rich coming from, well, Steven Tyler a man for whom style is merely something to get him over a fence in a field. Up for the prize were Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Killers, Scissor Sisters< Gnarls Barkley and The Flaming Lips, with The Killers once again having to make the journey from the table to the stage, leaving their drinks unattended, going in direct defiance of government advice to avoid date rape. Now that laisez faire attitude towards their own personal safety is true rock and roll behaviour.

Giving the audience a toilet break, it's Corrine Bailey Rae doing Put Your Records On, and she's surrounded by a tableau of people acting out various things, skipping, blowing a kiss, just chatting. Well, you've got to do something to keep yourself amused when she's performing. As the song reached, for want of a better word, it's climax, those same performers appeared behind her to indulge in some incredibly bad dancing. Obviously they were chosen not for their rhythmic ability but their willingness to share the same stage as Corrine Bailey Rae, a very rare talent.

Best British Single was presented by Alan Carr, who we saw doing stand up years ago and cannot fathom his current rise to fame given that a) he was entirely unfunny and b) is still entirely unfunny. Facing the live pubic vote for this were Will Young's All Time Love, Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars, Take That's Patience, The Feeling's Fill My Little World and Razorlight's America. Proving conclusively that their fan's have the most credit left on their mobiles where Take That whose speech was pretty much as you would expect.

Best British Album was the final 'proper' prize of the night and here to present it for no other reason than he's from Sheffield, as are the eventual winners, is Sean Bean, who makes some sort of football reference which he seems to think is hilarious. Snow Patrol, Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and Muse were all up for this, but in the end the Arctic Monkeys took the prize, mainly because the Brits desperately want to be seen as cool and cutting edge and like to believe that giving the prize to an act like this gives them this outsider, rebel status, rather than the reality which is just that they're desperately chasing trends, months and months after they happen, always managing to avoid anything truly interesting that's going on. But they didn't give anything to Lily Allen, so they're not all bad. The Arctics accepted this prize dressed as the Village People. Oh nurse, our sides, etc.

And so we come finally to the Not Yet Dead award, or Outstanding Contribution to Music prize, which this year has gone to Oasis, who really have made an outstanding contribution in the field of having remarkable success despite not having the talent, tunes, or charisma to deserve it. "Football fans love 'em", said Russell, in his introductory piece, which perhaps says it all. We've heard the sort of things football fans like to sing at games up and down the country, it's not quite the pinnacle of musical excellence, is it, not unless you consider boorish, atonal grunting to be pleasant to listen to. And if you do then you're probably already in Oasis.

With his usual grace and wit, Liam bounded on stage and declared "Seeing as we don't get nominated for this shit anymore, this'll have to do". before the band buggered off to play Cigarettes and Alcohol, Some Song We Didn't Recgonise and What's the Story (Morning Glory), with Liam descending more and more into self parody and Noel showing a worrying amount of concentration for a man who must have played these songs a million times before. They go through there set with the workmanlike air of a band who have a greatest hits album to promote which even they're not hugely fussed about. As they played they cut to an audience shot which included a Fratelli, standing with a glass of champagne in hand, looking entirely uninvolved as he watched the performance. This, perhaps, says it all.

And that, is pretty much that. As always the whole affair was pretty pointless, but it has used up a couple of hours of our life which we'd otherwise have wasted in some even more futile way, hard though that may be to imagine. Civilisation hasn't crumbled, despite Russell Brand making some innuendo in the middle of the evening, music will still be fantastic, despite the celebration of the mediocre that's been displaye tonight, and Lily Allen will probably still release records, despite being suitably snubbed tonight. Oh well.

More Brits! Join us tomorrow for our Fashion Correspondent Laura's view on the whole affair! How exciting!