Folk rocks! Brits strike an alternative chord

The sweet, plaintive vocals of folk singer Laura Marling sang out the start of a more critically respectable era for the oft-maligned Brit Awards.

Marling triumphed last night as the Brits' best female solo artist, beating a shortlist made up of mainstream pop acts Ellie Goulding, Cheryl Cole, Paloma Faith and Rumer.

This year's awards were billed as the most bombastic ever: transferred to London's O2 Arena for the first time, with more than 1,000 staff toiling behind the scenes. But the key change appeared to be the shake-up of the 1,000-strong voting academy from across the music industry, which included artists for the first time.

It was a fine night for folk, with Mumford & Sons taking home the most celebrated award of the night, best British album, for their 2009 record Sigh No More.

Forest Gate rapper Plan B was named best British male, beating Paul Weller, who, at 52, is 25 years his senior. The Londoner also saw off rock veteran Robert Plant to pick up one of the new Brit statuettes, redesigned by Vivienne Westwood for the relaunched awards.

Perhaps to demonstrate greater awareness of goings-on in the wider world, dancing riot police accompanied an opening performance from Take That, which was only partly undermined when they stripped down to their gleaming red underwear.

They have been nominated for best British group three times, and were last night finally victorious in that category. The newly reformed quintet were part of an extended line-up taking to the stage at the Docklands event, alongside Rihanna, Adele, Plan B, Arcade Fire, Cee Lo Green, Tinie Tempah and Mumford & Sons.

Cee Lo Green was recognised as best international male, with Rihanna picking up the female equivalent.

Rumours of illness had cast doubt on Barbados-born Rihanna's appearance, but she showed up with a performance every bit as raunchy as the one that caused controversy on The X Factor in December. Singing a medley of her hits, the 22-year-old displayed a penchant for crotch-grabbing thought to have been laid to rest with the passing of Michael Jackson.

South London rapper Tinie Tempah was nominated for four awards but walked away with just two: the award for best British breakthrough act and best single in the form of his debut release, "Pass Out".

Cee Lo Green and Paloma Faith closed the ceremony, teaming up to sing Cee Lo's hit "Forget You".

Canadian alternative rock outfit Arcade Fire completed a tremendous week, taking home gongs for both best international group and best international album for The Suburbs. The group also picked up the best album award at the Grammys on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton, Fearne Cotton, Mark Ronson, Ellie Goulding and Boris Becker joined host James Corden on stage to present awards.

The other Brit winners

British Group: Take That

British Single: 'Pass out' Tinie Tempah

Critics' Choice: Jessie J

International Male Solo Artist: Cee lo Green

International Female: Rihanna

International Album: Arcade Fire The Suburbs

International Group: Arcade Fire

British Producer: Markus Dravs

itn - Brit winners: Justin Bieber, Tinie Tempah & Plan B