BRIT Awards 2009 – Live Blog

[BRIT Awards photo gallery]
[BRIT Awards news reports]

Right, that’s it from me. In summary? Duffy dominated, Pet Shop Boys reminded us of their songwriting genius (but in a rather soulless fashion) and Coldplay, U2 and Kings Of Leon put in slick, adequate performances. As a snapshot of music in 2009, it’s not exactly electrifying. BUT! Elbow won Best British Band, and only a heartless psychopath could fail to be uplifted by that.

That said, it’s a strangely bloodless end to the evening. You need a band to put on a proper show on occasions like this, not be all taciturn and diffident. Like I say, give it to Iron Maiden next year. ‘Run To The Hills’, ‘The Trooper’, it’d be amazing.

Strikes me that ‘Actually’ has aged well, and makes a lot of sense in these times of economic meltdown. After all, it’s an album that’s obsessed with money: practically every song describes human relationships in term of their monetary value – ‘Rent’, ‘Shopping’ etc. It’s a terrifically bleak album. Must go and put it on now, in fact.

Brandon joins in on ‘It’s A Sin’. For about 10 seconds. Shame. JJ72 covered this, years ago. It was fucking abysmal. Astonishing song, though.

Lady GaGa joins in on ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This’, her vocal roughly a billionth as impressive as Dusty Springfield’s. Beyond clueless.

‘Always On My Mind’. Tedious rock fact: this song kept ‘Fairytale Of New York’ off the Christmas Number One in 1987. Still sounds immense, although Tennant isn’t giving it much welly. Then again, “welly” is not really his thing.

The megamix kicks off with ‘Suburbia’. One of Brett Anderson’s favourite songs. Fact!

Pet Shop Boys’ performance kicks off with a pre-recorded message, spoken by giant digitized projections of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s heads. A bit like Holly from ‘Red Dwarf’.

Brandon Flowers is up, trusty dead badger slung over his shoulders. He’s talking about the album that turned him on to the Pet Shop Boys – ‘Discography’ – which is bit like Alan Partridge saying, “I’d have to say… the Best Of The Beatles’.

It’s official: Pet Shop Boys will be joined onstage by Brandon Flowers. Backstage, Gok Wan and Alan Carr are fooling around with a rubber duck. Coincidence?

Quite a genuine speech from Duffy this time, to be fair. And to think, it’s only two years since she appeared on the Welsh version of ‘Pop Idol’ (‘Waw Ffactor’):

Duffy wins her third award of the night (Best Album). That’s as many as The Darkness took home in 2004, so you know it’s an event of lasting cultural import.

It’s the first time Girls Aloud have won a Brit, which seems an insane oversight on the part of organisers. “IT’S ABOUT TIME!!! I THINK I JUST WET MESELF!!” bellows Sarah Harding, striking just the right note of sober humility.

Alan Carr on stage. Are none of these professional comedians able to say anything remotely funny? Just a little quip? Something spontaneous? “And the winner is… Diana Vickers! Oh sorry, wrong show”. OK, that was mildly funny. Actually Best Single goes to Girls Aloud – for ‘The Promise’, bizarrely. Not even the best single they released this year, let alone anyone else.

‘Shut Up And Let Me Go’ Vs ‘American Boy’ mash-up. I guess it kind of works. The look is very American Apparel, especially Katie White. Now they’re doing ‘That’s Not My Name’. White’s voice is way out of key. Even Estelle seems to be struggling a bit, actually. The “Are you calling me darling?” bit seems much too low for her, in terms of register.

Oh, it’s Kanye West, who gives a mildly baffling speech by video link. Nice pink shirt. But now it’s time for mismatched duet of the night: Estelle and The Ting Tings.

International Male. Let’s hope Seasick Steve doesn’t win. If he gets up on stage people might get the wrong idea and start throwing loose change on stage. It’d be awkward.

Florence And The Machine gets up to receive the pre-ordained Critics’ Choice award. Little Boots was robbed. “I’m going to go and get drunk now.” Damn. I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.

The Hoff backstage with Elbow. It’s not often you see Guy Garvey in a room with someone who looks even drunker than he is.

Kings Of Leon live, doing ‘Use Somebody’. Chris Martin is on his feet. He’s not cheering or dancing or anything, he’s just on his feet. But he looks quite impressed.

Christ! Elbow have won Best British Group! Ahead of Coldplay. If you’d told me 12 months ago that Elbow would win a Mercury and a Brit, I’d have chuckled myself inside out. You can’t help but feel immensely pleased for them.

“You wouldn’t believe ho long it’s taken us… to get this close to The Hoff,” quips Guy Garvey, a wry comment on the band’s slow-mo, two-decade ascent to mainstream glory.

It’s The Hoff, for some reason.

Oh, they have. Blimey. Still, after selling 100 million-odd albums, they deserve something. Next year’s Lifetime Achievement? Unlikely. But I’d love to see Eddie stomping round the stage spitting fire, if only to see the look on Fearne Cotton’s face.

Nick Frost is up to present Best Live Act. Like Pegg, he declines to attempt a gag, which feels a bit lazy. I mean, he’s not there for his looks, is he? I sort of hope Iron Maiden win this one, just for a change.

Caleb looks hammered. He’s doing his “England means a lot to us” speech, which he does at every UK gig and festival. No sooner have his words died away and it’s… Take That! Doing ‘Greatest Day’ from a platform suspended from the ceiling, illuminated by green lasers straight out of the ‘Clocks’ video.

Doesn’t matter how many times you see it, it’s still weird seeing Take That nicking their moves from Coldplay and U2. No sign of Robbie.

Kings Of Leon in Best International Album. They walk to the podium accompanied by ‘Sex On Fire’, which, as we have pointed out many times on NME.COM, is an activity that should only ever be attempted by trained professionals.

Joe Calzaghe backstage. He feels uncomfortable because “there’s no-one to beat up”. Fearne Cotton backs slowly away.

Duffy performs ‘Warwick Avenue’. I don’t want to keep going on about her being bland, but… she owns a cat called Felix. How bland do you have to be to call your cat Felix? It’s like calling a dog Fido. I fear I’m straying off topic now.

Well-aaaah gets the nod for Best Male. All those people who placed suspiciously large bets having been privy to music biz insider info will be pleased. He’s not there to pick it up though. He accepts via video message alongside Adele.

Mat Horne makes a Craig David gag. Bit of a cheap shot. The problem with the Brits is that you always get that awkward thing here the presenters are drowned out by the cheering, so all the ‘jokes’ fall on deaf ears, leaving the presenters looking a bit lost and helpless, like politicians being interviewed via satellite on ‘Newsnight’.

Natalie Imbruglia presents the award to Kings Of Leon. Wasn’t Caleb sleeping with Imbruglia a while back? You’d never guess, though. I mean, she doesn’t pinch his arse as he walks past or anything.

Best International Group. Hearing Fleet Foxes’ name read out in this environment feels surreal. I know their album went to Number 2 recently, but still… it’s like the ceremony being gatecrashed by Word Magazine.

Rumour: Robbie will be joining Take That for a live reunion. Maybe they’ll do their ‘Smells Like Teen Sprit’ cover, for old time’s sake:

Thought: is this the most heavily Tweeted music event in history?

Backstage is now a sort of terrifying blandness vortex, with Fearne Cotton grilling Jamie Cullum and Jamie Oliver in her inimitable, scythingly witty style. Jamie Hince sadly not available to make it a Jamie triumvirate.

Actually I’ve just realised ‘Viva La Vida’ sounds a lot more like ‘Walking On Broken Glass’ by Brit Awards stalwart Annie Lennox. The choppy violins, the staccato rhythm… it’s practically the same song. Chris Martin: the indie Lennox? Discuss.

Coldplay live, playing… oh you know, the one that sounds exactly like a song by Joe Satria[sniiip! – libel ed]

Alex James: there’s a face you don’t see in the media every day. He’s here to present Best British Breakthrough to… Duffy. She expresses her gratitude by muttering about “airplay”. Tedious. I like Duffy, but there’s a strange, dead-eyed, Stepford Wives quality to her.

Duffy interviewed backstage by Fearne Cotton. A double-whammy of blandness. Like watching two of those mildly creepy fabric Lenor dolls sighing themselves into a coma.

Girls Aloud perform their least interesting song, ‘The Promise’. Shame, I had my hopes pinned on a Cradle Of Filth medley.

Rich Tea hands Best International Female to Katy Perry, who is apparently full of flu. “I want to die now,” she wheezes. Hmm, not quite the sparkling pure-pop appearance the tabloids were hoping for, perhaps. Still, as acceptance speeches go, it beats Kate
Winslet at the Golden Globes.

Lionel Rich Tea is here! I got my mum tickets to see him once. I thought she’d be pleased. Instead she found him “too showbiz”. He’s Lionel Richie, ferchrissakes, he’s supposed to be showbiz.

Simon Pegg is up to present Best British Female. No gags, sadly. And the award goes to to… Duffy. Cue speculation from the ITV presenter over whether she might “clean up tonight.” Harsh – she looks quite fragrant to me.

“Welcome to the Brit Awards 2009!” says host Kylie Minogue, shortly after performing a burst of ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ with co-hosts Mat Horne and James Corden. They didn’t do that at the NME Awards last year..

Sexy boots! It’s U2, kicking off proceedings with the lead single from ‘No Line On The Horizon’. “Their greatest album,” according to Q. Actually, it’s easily their worst.

Calvin Harris has just Twittered photos of the food being served on his Brits table. It looks like duck and fruit based fare to us. Extra points for the glitzy sunglasses on his table. See his snaps here.

This year’s stage set has a ‘festival’ theme. Cue cows and a caravan on stage, and an odd plastic-Glastonbury vibe. Apparently The Hoff will be presenting Best British Group. Very surreal.

Little Boots has arrived on the red carpet and is ‘feeling nervous’, according to her Twitter updates. Nice outfit, mind you (photo on her Twitter page for those interested).

BRIT Awards trufax: Annie Lennox has won more awards than anyone else bar Robbie, with eight. And the artist with the greatest number of nominations? No, not Goldie Lookin’ Chain, it’s… George Michael, with 17.

The Ting Tings, Gabriella Cilmi and Katy Perry have already walked down the red carpet. How desperate for publicity do you have to be to arrive two hours early?

Is Mike Skinner at The Brits? According to his Twitter, “someone just got punched. I have a feeling it’ll be in the papers tomorrow.”

Aside from the live performances, Best British Breakthrough could be a key testing ground for how the night is going to go. If Scouting For Girls win it, it could be a sign that we’re in for a long, dispiriting evening.

International Group could be interesting, too. Certainly, if Fleet Foxes won it’d be the biggest upset since Belle & Sebastian pipped Steps to the Best British Newcomer award
in 1999. And do Elbow realistically stand a chance of beating Coldplay in any of the three categories in which they’re pitted against Coldplay (Album, Band, Live Act)…?

What are your BRIT Awards predictions? Every year the papers make a great play of the freewheeling, anything-could-happen “anarchy” of the BRITs (and that’s certainly part of its charm, as I pointed out this morning).

But for every year in which something funny and surprising has happened – Jarvis’ bum-waggling odyssey in 1996, Chumbawamba drenching John Prescott out of solidarity with Liverpool dockworkers in 1998 – there have been plenty of drab years in which bugger all of note has taken place.

What does anyone remember about the 2006 ceremony, other than the fact Kaiser Chiefs took home three awards? Most of the ‘controversy’ in recent years – say, Russell Brand talking about The Queen’s “naughty bits” in 2007, has been stage-managed and pre-meditated in a depressingly flagrant bid to generate front-page outrage.

Still, tonight holds the promise of some top-drawer performances, if not an avalanche of jaw-dropping surprises. Pet Shop Boys’ show-closing greatest hits will be immense – I hope they play ‘It’s A Sin’ – even if the much-touted guest star does turn out to be Lady Ga-Ga rather than Brandon Flowers, as initial reports suggested.