The O2 was filled last night with the great and good of the music industry, handing each other small spotty statuettes designed by Damien Hirst. That was about the most edgy aspect of the Brit Awards, which used to be the enfant terrible of awards ceremonies, but now out-dulls the annual conference of forensic accountants (which is quite a knees-up by all accounts). The staging was spectacular, especially in the opening crescendo from Muse, but the whole event put me in mind of the old theatrical saw "the audience left humming the scenery".
James Corden is a gifted comic actor and a talented writer. His performance as "Smiffy" at the BBC Sports Personality Awards was a masterclass in comedy. Alas, his MC performance at The Brits was somewhere between a rabbit in the headlights and a geography teacher at parents' evening. Maybe it was his tonsilitis, a lack of rehearsal, or over-reliance on the autocue. His timing on the gag lines removed much of the humour (and there wasn't much). The script may well have been one left over from a Eurovision Song Contest, with most of the jokes carefully removed. Where are Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood when you need them?
The musical performances were all designed as mini-spectaculars, and everyone (except Muse and Emeli Sande) looked miffed that they weren't opening or closing the show. The huge stage extension into the arena seemed to be a challenge to most, with a mad race out and back during the middle eight. Some of them even made it back before the chorus.
As for the award winners, that's a matter of personal taste and judgement. Having seen The Rolling Stones in the very same arena a few months ago, I'm more than a little surprised that Coldplay edged them out of the "best live act" award. The lifetime achievement award was scrapped - presumably careers are too short these days, and replaced by the "Global Success Award', to ensure that One Direction turned up to collect it.
It was hard to argue with the destination of most of the awards, but where were moments like Oasis taunting Blur, or Chumbawumba dousing John Prescott, or Vic Reeves playing microphone wrestling with Sharon Osbourne? These days, we just have to listen to the bland, as the record company executives nod sagely. The Brits are no longer a rebellious teenager, and have grown up to become a train spotter in a nylon anorak (actually that's a bit unfair to train-spotters).
For me, as a professional speaker and media bloke, the acceptance speeches were even more dire than usual. Does it not occur to people on a short-list of five that they might win, and therefore should have prepared a few appropriate words? Obviously not. Most winners shuffled about looking nervous and embarrassed, said "er - thanks" and wandered off. Quite remarkable when you think that they earn their corn on stage in front of huge audiences.
As Danny Baker, the Pepys of our times, pointed out from his vantage point in the middle of the sorry debacle (I may be paraphrasing slightly) "If this was the day the music died, The Brits will be taken in for questioning".
Picture Credit : Alan Stevens